When a person is pulled over for driving under the influence (DUI), the arresting officer will prepare a police report, summarizing the reasons behind the arrest. These reports are important when it comes to prosecuting a DUI case, and they can be helpful for defense attorneys in evaluating the case and determining a strong basis for a defense.
Why DUI Reports Are Valuable
Without DUI reports, the courts can only go off the testimony and viewpoint from the parties involved. Alone, DUI reports are not enough to be considered admissible evidence. The court will not accept the report by itself since the statements constitute hearsay, but the report gives both sides an idea of what the arresting officer would say when called to the stand. Having this information will allow the defendant to prepare a case and fight the charges. The arresting officer’s report can show if there are any weaknesses in the case, including their basis for probable cause in the arrest.
Contents of a DUI Report
While every report may differ in what is included, DUI police reports tend to contain the following information:
- The reason the police officer pulled the driver over;
- Why the police officer believed the person was under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- How the person performed on field sobriety tests, and
- The results of the breathalyzer test conducted before or after the arrest.
If more than one officer was present at the scene of the arrest, each officer will include his or her own narrative in the report.
Reasons for the Stop
The police officer must have a valid reason to pull a driver over in the first place. Usually, with DUIs, the reason for the stop involves some type of traffic violation, whether it be speeding or swerving. Occasionally, the police will set up a DUI checkpoint and will stop all cars that pass through the checkpoint, and this will be the basis for the stop. Whatever the reason may be, the police officer will need to document it in the report.
Observation of Intoxication
A police officer may believe a driver is intoxicated, simply by observing the driver speeding, swerving, or driving erratically. People speed constantly and an odor of alcohol might mean consumption, but not necessarily impairment. The police commonly use odor of alcohol as a basis to start a DUI investigation. However, odor of alcohol does not prove impairment. It only tends to prove someone has had one or more alcoholic drinks or has alcohol in the vehicle. This alone is not sufficient to investigate or arrest for DUI. The officer may document the person was slurring their speech or had bloodshot eyes. These observations are key because they will indicate what the officer will be likely to say in court.
Field Sobriety Tests
Once the police officer believes a person may be intoxicated, you will likely be asked to participate in a field sobriety test. These tests assess coordination and can provide proof of impairment. If the tests were not conducted properly, you can use evidence of this as a possible defense.
Several different field sobriety tests are available to the police officers, including the following standardized tests:
- HGN Test: In this test, the police officer will have you stand with your hands at your sides, keeping your head still, and following a pen with your eyes only. In this test, the officer is looking for twitching in your eye, dilation of your pupils, and other indications you may be impaired.
- One Leg Stand Test: The One Leg Stand Test involves you standing with your feet together, keeping your arms to your side. The officer will then ask you to raise one leg approximately six inches off of the ground, holding it for 30 seconds, while looking down at your foot. If you raise your leg too high or too low, the officer may see this as a sign of impairment. Additionally, the police officer will also look for swaying, putting your foot down, not looking at your foot, or using your arms for balance as signs of impairment.
- Walk and Turn Test: This test involves you walking along a long yellow tape line created by the officer. He or she will ask you to stand with one foot on the tape, placing your other foot directly in front of the other foot. You will be asked to take nine heal to toe steps on the line, keeping your arms at your side. On the ninth step, you will be asked to turn around and take nine more steps to get to where you began. If the officer observes you stepping off the line, not stepping heal to toe, or swaying while walking, this evidence will be documented in the police report as indication of your intoxication.
The police officer may utilize non-standardized tests to evaluate sobriety, including the following tests:
- Finger to Nose Test: The Finger to Nose test involves standing with your feet together, keeping your arms to your side and head back. The police officer will give directions by saying “right” or “left,” asking you to lift your index finger on the hand the officer directs, touching the tip of your finger to your nose. This will be done normally six times. If the officer sees you not touching the tip of your finger to your nose, they will mark this on the DUI report as indication of your intoxication. Also, if you use the wrong hand, fail to remove your finger from your nose, or your eyes do not remain closed, this additional information may be listed in the DUI report.
- Rhomberg Alphabet Test: Another test is the Rhomberg Alphabet Test, which involves you standing with your hands to your side, keeping your head back and eyes closed, while reciting the alphabet without singing it. If you cannot keep your eyes closed, sway or say the alphabet incorrectly, this will also be documented in the report as proof of your intoxication.
- Rhomberg Balance Test: Another non-standardized field sobriety test is the Rhomberg Balance Test. This test involves you standing with your hands at your side, keeping your head back and your eyes closed. The police officer will ask you to count to 30 in your head, telling you to let the officer know when you have reached 30 seconds. During this time, the police officer will be observing you to see if you sway, whether you can keep your eyes closed, and whether you use your arms for balance. You will also be observed as to how close you are to 30 seconds. If any of this behavior is observed, it will be noted in your DUI report.
Breathalyzer Test Results
The police officer may choose to do a few chemical tests to prove intoxication. The State of Florida has an “implied consent law,” which means that when you get your driver’s license, you consent to submit to any sobriety test required by law. One of these tests is a breath test. If the result is over the limit of 0.08, the officer will likely put you under arrest. Unlike a blood test, a breath test can be less reliable. Certain requirements must be met for the test to be conducted appropriately, and if it can be shown that the breath test was not conducted properly, a successful defense may be raised.
One requirement is the police officer is not supposed to administer the breath test until he or she has observed you for at least 20 minutes, as per National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guidelines. If they did not wait the required 20 minutes, you may be able to challenge the test results.
The breathalyzer machines must be appropriately calibrated for them to work successfully. Failure to maintain accurate calibration records can be used against any breathalyzer test results. If the prosecution attempts to submit your breathalyzer results at trial, they will also need to provide testimony and evidence regarding the machine’s calibration.
One important factor that should be kept in mind regarding breath results, as well as blood results, is that under Florida law, if you provide a breath or blood test that is 0.08 or higher, the prosecution does not need to provide any proof as to whether you appeared intoxicated before the tests were conducted. The results of the test will be enough to support DUI argument.
Blood Test Results
If the police officer conducts a blood test that shows you were at 0.08 or more, you may have a harder time fighting a DUI conviction. An experienced DUI defense attorney can assist in attempting to challenge these results, however, and it is not recommended that you go it alone in defending yourself. Again, in court, the prosecution will need to supply evidence as to how the blood was tested and show chain of command of the sample from you to the test. The results of this test will also be in your DUI report.
Getting a Copy of the DUI Report
Many times, the prosecution will give a copy of the DUI report to the defense at the arraignment, the first court date. However, you are always entitled to request this information sooner from the police department if you so choose.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys | Jacksonville DUI Lawyers
When it comes to DUI charges, do not take any chances. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is one of the most important decisions you can make in building a strong defense against criminal charges. DUI convictions come with harsh penalties in Florida. If you have been charged with a DUI or have been accused of any other crime in Florida, you should immediately contact the experienced criminal attorneys at Shorstein, Lasnetski, & Gihon Law. Contact us today for your initial case evaluation. Our Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers are ready to put their extensive courtroom trial experience to work for you.