Florida Court Explains Probable Cause for Issuing a Warrant in a DUI Case

In many instances in which a person is charged with a DUI crime in Florida, it is because they are stopped while driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If a person is suspected of causing a collision while intoxicated but the police have no proof that the person drove the vehicle involved in the crash, they may seek a warrant to obtain evidence such as blood samples. Recently, a Florida court issued an opinion in a DUI case, reversing an order suppressing evidence obtained via multiple search warrants, and in doing so explained the probable cause the State must demonstrate in order to obtain a warrant. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is advisable to speak to a seasoned Florida DUI defense attorney to assess your options.

The Accident and Subsequent Investigation

It is reported that a fatal accident occurred at approximately 2:30 am at an intersection in Orange County. The passenger and driver of one vehicle both died due to their injuries. The other vehicle involved in the crash was registered to the defendant, who was sitting in the driver’s seat. He had seat belt burns across his chest, and the passenger of the vehicle stated that the defendant was impaired and drank too much to drive.

Allegedly, the defendant was transported to the hospital, where he refused to submit to a blood draw. The officer investigating the accident obtained a warrant and was permitted to seize a sample of the defendant’s blood. A second warrant was obtained a few days later to allow the office to obtain evidence from the defendant’s vehicle, and a third warrant was issued a month later to obtain a DNA sample from the defendant to determine if it matched DNA obtained from the car. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the warrants arguing the police lacked probable cause to seek such warrants. The trial court granted the motion, and the State appealed.

Demonstrating Probable Cause for Issuing a Warrant

In Florida, an affidavit in support of a warrant must demonstrate probable cause for issuing the warrant by showing that a certain person committed a crime and that the evidence relevant to the probable crime is likely to be in the place searched. Demonstrating probable cause does not require prima facie proof of criminal acts, just that it is likely that criminal behavior occurred.

A magistrate presented with an affidavit in support of a request for a warrant must judge the affidavit on its four corners. In other words, it cannot look to evidence outside of the affidavit in determining whether probable cause exists. From the affidavit, it must assess whether there is a fair chance that evidence of a crime will be located if the warrant is granted. If probable cause is found and a warrant is issued, the finding should not be disturbed absent a clear abuse of discretion. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the trial court failed to give the magistrate the deference required when it granted the defendant’s motion. Thus, the trial court ruling was reversed.

Speak to a Trusted Florida Attorney

DUI convictions can impair your freedom and harm your relationships, reputation, and career. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is prudent to consult an attorney to assess your possible defenses. The trusted Florida DUI defense attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. are skilled at helping people accused of criminal offenses fight to safeguard their liberties, and if we represent you, we will gather the evidence needed to mount compelling arguments in your favor. We can be reached via our online form or at 800-283-7442 to set up a meeting.

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