Probable Cause

Probable cause is the standard for an arrest in a Florida DUI case. For an officer to arrest you they can combine all of their (including fellow officers) evidence and observations and if it ads up to probable cause the arrest is lawful. If the arrest is not lawful then anything obtained from the arrest would be tainted and inadmissible as evidence. Most important in a DUI case is the breath test or breath test refusal. Reasonable suspicion is a much lower standard than probable cause. Probable cause has been defined as"a reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime" or "a reasonable amount of suspicion, supported by circumstances sufficiently strong to justify a prudent and cautious person's belief that certain facts are probably true". “Probable cause to arrest exists when the totality of the facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge would lead a reasonable person to believe that an offense has been committed and that the defendant is the one who committed it.”. State v. Walker, 991 So. 2d 928, 931 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2008), reh'g denied (Oct. 17, 2008)cause for a driving under the influence (DUI) arrest must be based upon more than a belief that a driver has consumed alcohol; it must arise from facts and circumstances that show a probability that a driver is impaired by alcohol or has an unlawful amount of alcohol in his system. Mere odor of alcohol on the breath of unconscious driver, who was determined not to have caused or contributed to the accident that led to serious injuries, did not furnish reasonable cause to believe that the driver was under the influence of alcohol to the extent that his normal faculties were impaired, and thus officer was not justified in obtaining blood sample from defendant at hospital. State v. Kliphouse, 771 So. 2d 16 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2000). Kliphouse deals with a forced blood draw but is often sited for the proposition that odor of alcohol alone is not enough for reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

An officer can arrest person for misdemeanor DUI in three circumstances: (1) officer witnesses each element of prima facie case; (2) officer is investigating“accident”and develops probable cause to charge DUI; or (3) one officer calls on another for assistance, and combined observations of two or more officers are united to establish probable cause to arrest. The evidence admitted at initial suppression hearing and subsequent rehearing failed to establish probable cause to arrest, or even reasonable suspicion to detain petitioner for driving under the influence (DUI); admissible evidence showed only that petitioner was standing near vehicle with another person after vehicle was involved in crash and appeared intoxicated, but not that he was the driver or had been in actual physical control of the vehicle. Skinner v. State, 31 So. 3d 940 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2010)Probable cause sufficient to justify an arrest exists“where the facts and circumstances, as analyzed from the officer's knowledge, special training and practical experience, and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information, are sufficient in themselves for a reasonable man to reach the conclusion that an offense has been committed.”City of Jacksonville v. Alexander,487 So.2d 1144, 1146 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986);see also, State v. Riehl,504 So.2d 798, 800 (Fla. 2d DCA 1987) (“In order to establish the probable cause necessary to make a valid arrest, however, it is not necessary to eliminate all possible defenses. Furthermore, the facts constituting probable cause need not meet the standard of conclusiveness and probability required of the circumstantial facts upon which conviction must be based.”).6 Probable cause is often a conclusion drawn from reasonable inferences. State v. Cote, 547 So.2d 993, 995 (Fla. 4th DCA 1989). Dep't of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles v. Favino, 667 So. 2d 305, 309 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1995).

Probable cause is a grey area that can be difficult to define. It allows for litigation and debate and depends a great deal on the parties involved. The officer’s testimony can greatly impact the court’s opinion on probable cause. What it comes down to is if a reasonably cautious person taking into consideration all the facts and circumstances would believe that the driver probably drove under the influence. For more information contact Daytona Beach DUI Attorney Seminole County DUI Attorney Kevin J. Pitts.