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What Should I Do If I Get Pulled Over For DUI In Florida?


In 2021, in the wake of some well-publicized and controversial police shootings, one of which was in neighboring Georgia, the National Police Association launched an advertising campaign it called comply now and complain later. That’s good advice, as long as individuals know their rights at police stops and don’t allow officers to bully them. Because of coronavirus restrictions, racial tensions, and other issues, many police officers are on edge. We’ve all seen how a disputed stop can end very badly for everyone involved.

This approach is only effective if the subsequent ability to complain is effective. This means that defendants should partner with a dedicated Tampa criminal defense attorney who knows the law and who knows how to make the law work for people. Usually, the initial stop is the most important component of a DUI arrest. If the stop is invalid, the case is usually invalid as well, because of the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. If the tree is poisonous (the stop was illegal), any fruit from this tree, such as DUI charges, is poisonous as well.

Comply Now

Police officers, like everyone else, don’t want to be out in the weather and don’t want to be standing near speeding cars any longer than necessary. Therefore, when you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror, it’s best to do the following:

  • Reduce speed and activate hazard lights. These acts clearly show the officer that you’re responding to the request to pull over. Don’t make any sudden moves, such as jerking the wheel or quickly activating hazard lights. Sudden moves make jittery police officers even more jittery.
  • Pull over at the first, safe opportunity. Most people pull into well-lit parking lots. Pulling onto a side street is almost as good, especially if the stop occurs in daylight or a streetlight is directly overhead. Pull over to the side of the road as a last resort.
  • After you safely stop, turn off the ignition, roll down the passenger side window, turn on the dome light if the stop happens at night, put your hands on the steering wheel at 11 and 1, and try not to move until the officer arrives at your window.
  • Know your rights. Motorists are legally required to produce their drivers’ licenses and proof of insurance for inspection. They must also comply with basic commands, like “step out of the car.” Otherwise, they don’t have a legal obligation to answer any questions.

Something could still go wrong if suspects follow all these steps. However, compliance greatly reduces the risk of a tragic outcome.

Complain Later

Most complaints about most stops involve a lack of reasonable suspicion. The Supreme Court has diluted this rule in recent years. However, the core principles remain intact. Basically, reasonable suspicion is an evidence-based hunch of criminal activity.

About nine times out of ten, police officers stop motorists over traffic violations. The violation could be apparent, like speeding, or obscure, like a dangling air freshener that obscures the driver’s view.

Most other stops involve informer’s tips. The informer could be a fellow police officer who witnesses suspected criminal activity and radios for assistance. Or, the informer could be an anonymous tipster. Judges must determine if the information the informer provided was reliable. There’s a difference between reliable and accurate.

Reasonable suspicion is not a hunch based on evidence. Assume Officer Jones sees Paul leave a bar late at night. Officer Jones follows Paul for five or six blocks, and finally, Paul rolls through a stop sign and Officer Jones pulls him over. That’s not reasonable suspicion. That’s illegal profiling.

Reach Out to a Compassionate Hillsborough County Attorney

A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. We routinely handle matters throughout Tampa Bay.


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