Police in Florida Have A Lesser Standard To Stop and Investigate a Person for Possible DUI

In Florida, in order for the police to stop a person and investigate him/her for a crime that is not a DUI, the police need “reasonable suspicion” that the person is involved in criminal activity. When the information comes from an ordinary citizen reporting the suspicious behavior to the police, the police must observe the suspect and confirm through their own observations conduct that is consistent with the tip and consistent with criminal activity. In other words, if a person calls police and says the guy in the blue shirt and black pants on the corner of Main Street and 1st Street is selling drugs, the police cannot stop him to investigate just because they see a guy wearing a blue shirt and black pants on that exact corner. The police also have to verify conduct consistent with criminal activity. For instance, this might include an observation that he was making quick, hand to hand transactions with people ion the street.

However, Florida courts state a lesser standard for stopping someone to investigate for a DUI crime. In a recent case about a DUI arrest near Jacksonville, Florida, the police stopped the driver based on tips from two citizens that the driver was drunk. Upon seeing the driver, they stopped him to investigate him for DUI without observing any evidence that the driver was in fact drunk. They ultimately arrested him for DUI. The court upheld the stop and stated that in DUI cases, the police only need a “founded suspicion” that the driver is intoxicated and impaired. The court acknowledged there is a somewhat relaxed standard for DUI stops because of the valid safety concerns with DUI cases (as opposed to other crimes that present valid safety concerns).

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