In a recent DUI case south of Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was the subject of a citizen’s arrest until the police officer arrived and formally arrested the defendant for DUI. The citizen was sitting on a bench when the defendant pulled up, stopped and got out of her vehicle. The citizen noted the defendant was clearly disoriented and appeared intoxicated. The citizen then took the keys from the defendant to prevent her from driving further. This was a seizure under the Florida search and seizure laws. Once she retained the defendant’s keys, the citizen called the police. The police officer arrived, spoke to the citizen about the defendant’s apparent intoxication and began a DUI investigation. After determining the defendant was drunk driving, the police officer arrested her for DUI. The defendant ultimately took a breathalyzer test which showed a very high blood alcohol content level.
The defendant’s criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the breathalyzer test and the police officer’s observations of her signs of impairment. The criminal defense attorney argued that the citizen’s arrest was improper and all evidence obtained thereafter was inadmissible. The court disagreed and found that this was a proper citizen’s arrest. Because the citizen observed the defendant show signs of impairment and acted properly in taking the keys from her to prevent her from driving, the citizen’s arrest was proper. The defendant was not unlawfully seized, and the police were permitted to conduct their DUI investigation and make a DUI arrest.