DUI Equipment Stop

Cracked Windshield: A Florida DUI windshield stop can be valid if it obstructs the view of the driver or is in unsafe condition. In Hilton, most of the testimony focused exclusively on the existence of a crack in Hilton's windshield, and there was virtually no testimony as to the location or the nature of the crack. The trial court only stated in ruling on the motion to suppress, “I've observed the photographs. I've observed and confirmed from the photograph that there is a clearly visible crack in the windshield of about the approximate length the officer testified to. Something of seven or eight inches....” The trial court made no findings and provided no conclusions with regard to whether the crack in the windshield rendered Hilton's vehicle unsafe. In fact, the only testimony with regard to any safety aspect of the windshield was offered by Officer Harrison, who testified that there was no glass falling out of the crack, and that he was not sure whether the crack would obstruct the driver's view. Having reviewed the record, we conclude that there was insufficient evidence presented at the hearing to provide “a particularized and objective basis” to suspect that the crack in Hilton's windshield rendered his vehicle unsafe in violation of section 316.610. Arvizu, 534 U.S. at 273, 122 S.Ct. 744. The State presented no evidence that the vehicle was in an unsafe condition to endanger person or property and, correspondingly, no evidence that would support an objectively reasonable suspicion that the vehicle was unsafe in violation of the statute. Therefore, the State has failed to support its burden of demonstrating that the stop of Hilton was objectively reasonable, and we conclude that the stop was illegal under the Fourth Amendment. Hilton v. State, 961 So. 2d 284, 297 (Fla. 2007)


Brake Light: Florida DUI traffic stop of defendant's vehicle for inoperable right rear brake light was not authorized. The vehicle was statutorily required only to be equipped with two functional brake lights, which defendant's vehicle had, as both the left rear and center brake lights were operational, and no evidence showed that the condition of defendant's vehicle posed a safety hazard. lt Zarba v. State, 993 So. 2d 1000 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2007). Competent, substantial evidence that tail lamp on defendant's automobile that had a cracked casing did not emit a plainly visible red light supported trial court's conclusion that police officer's stop of automobile was justified. Paul v. State, 991 So. 2d 404 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2008). Stop of automobile was not justified on basis that officers “reasonably suspected” that automobile with cracked lens cover over one of its rear lights was in violation of the law, in that law enforcement officers are charged with knowledge of law and a reasonable officer would have known that the automobile was in compliance with the law Doctor v. State, 596 So.2d 442 (1992).


Headlights: Under Florida law a vehicle can be stopped if it does not have both headlights operational. Some protection is provided by case law when the headlights are accidently turned off or the driver forgets to turn them on. When a Deputy's testimony established that he stopped people who drive without their lights, it does not establish that he stops people for only going one-half block without their lights, absent an additional invalid purpose. The Court agreed with the trial court's conclusion that pulling out of a parking lot and driving one-half of a small city block before putting headlights on is not such a circumstance that it can be assumed, without proof, that a reasonable officer would make the stop, when there was no proof that the area was not well-lit, and no proof that the brief period of driving without lights on caused any danger. State v. Lagree, 595 So. 2d 1029 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1992)


Tag Light / License Plate Light: Florida DUI Stop Deputy's observation from 40 to 50 feet away that tag light of defendant's vehicle was not working was sufficient to provide probable cause to believe that tag light was in fact inoperable and, thus, to justify a traffic stop, whether or not deputy inspected vehicle after stopping defendant. State v. Lee, 957 So. 2d 76 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2007). In contrast Police officer's belief that defendant's vehicle had an equipment violation because only one tag light was working was a mistake of law that did not establish probable cause to stop the vehicle. The stop of defendant's vehicle was not authorized under statute allowing vehicle stops for a vehicle that is unsafe or not equipped as required by law, where the state did not show that the malfunctioning of one of the vehicle's two tag lights rendered the vehicle not equipped as required by law or unsafe. lt Langello v. State, 970 So. 2d 491 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2007). Police had probable cause to stop vehicle where license tag illuminating light was not on when headlights were on, in violation of statute, even though stop took place before sunset and headlights were not required to be on. Andrews v. State, 540 So. 2d 210 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1989). Generally speaking a Florida DUI tag light stop is difficult to suppress. On the other hand tag light stops do not carry a lot of weight with a jury unless the prosecutor has additional evidence of impairment.


Loud Music Excessive Noise: A Florida DUI Stop was valid when the officer was “a minimum of 175 feet” from Davis' vehicle when he noticed the loudness of the vehicle's stereo. The officer stopped the vehicle for violating a noise statute which makes it a violation to play a vehicle's radio so that it is “plainly audible at a distance of 100 feet or more from the motor vehicle. In this case, a violation of the noise statute justified the stop. Davis v. State, 710 So. 2d 635, 636 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1998). Stop of vehicle for a defective muffler system was not pretextual (or invalid), where arresting officer testified that it was normal practice to stop vehicles with defective muffler systems if traffic and priorities permitted, and it was uncontroverted that arresting officer heard the “extremely loud” muffler prior to the stop. State v. Gibson, 560 So. 2d 1370 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1990).


Window Tint Stop: Generally, a Florida DUI traffic stop is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment “where the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred.” Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 810, 116 S.Ct. 1769, 135 L.Ed.2d 89 (1996). An officer's subjective intentions play no role in Fourth Amendment analysis. Id. at 813, 116 S.Ct. 1769. In Holland v. State, 696 So.2d 757 (Fla.1997), the Florida Supreme Court receded from its earlier decision in State v. Daniel, 665 So.2d 1040 (Fla.1995), in light of Whren, finding that the United States Supreme Court had “rejected the reasonable officer test in favor of a strict objective test which asks only whether any probable cause for the stop existed.” Holland, 696 So.2d at 759. Thus, the issue in this case is whether the officers had probable cause to believe that the windows of the car in which Wimberly was riding were illegally tinted, not whether the windows were actually illegally tinted. State v. Wimberly, 988 So. 2d 116, 119 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2008) . When a motorist, who was stopped for 35 minutes before being issued a citation for a window tint violation, was subjected to unreasonably prolonged traffic stop, where it took 35 minutes for the officer to write the citation far exceeded the amount of time necessary, and officer actually had completed citation and handed it to defendant before drug dog performed search of vehicle. An individual who is stopped for the commission of a traffic infraction may be subjected to a canine search of the exterior of the vehicle so long as it is done within the time required to issue a citation. Williams v. State, 869 So. 2d 750 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2004).