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Sample Motion to Suppress – Improper DUI Stop

Phil Photo New By Philip M. Snyder

The Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys at Lyons, Snyder & Collin were recently retained by a individual arrested for Driving While Under the Influence (DUI).   Criminal lawyer Philip Snyder filed the following Motion to Suppress citing “No probable cause or reasonable suspicion to effectuate a traffic stop” and “No reasonable suspicion to submit to roadside DUI exercises.”  The Motion to Suppress is currently pending in Broward County.   The defendant’s name and case number has been deleted for privacy purposes.  Any formatting errors were not present in the Motion filed with the Court.

IN THE COUNTY COURT OF THE 17TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

IN AND FOR BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA

STATE OF FLORIDA,                                  Case No.:        XXXXXX

Plaintiff,                                                          Judge:             XXXXXX

vs.

*****, WILLIAM,

Defendant.

_____________________/

MOTION TO SUPPRESS

            COMES NOW the defendant, by and through his undersigned attorney pursuant to Rules 3.190 (h), (i), Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, and moves this Honorable Court to suppress all evidence stemming from the illegal stop and detention of the defendant and as grounds in support of said motion states as follows:

FACTS: PRE-STOP

  1. On October 29, 2011 at approximately 2:22 a.m., Broward Sheriff Sergeant Anthony ##### (hereinafter referred to as “#####”) effectuated a traffic stop on William ***** (hereinafter referred to as “*****”) for “swerving over and straddling the solid bike line marker (4x) in the 1500, 1600, 2100 and 2600 blocks of North Federal Highway”.[1]
  2. ##### placed his police cruiser behind *****’s vehicle beginning at the 1200 block of North Federal Highway.
  3. ##### initiated his lights and sirens at approximately the 3200/3300 block of North Federal Highway.  [2]
  4. ***** pulled over his vehicle without incident at the 3500 block of North Federal Highway.
  5. #####’s probable cause affidavit is devoid of any suggestion that ***** committed any additional traffic violations over a twenty-one block stretch of North Federal Highway, notwithstanding “Disobey/Avoid Traffic Device”.   [3]
  6. Based on *****’s driving pattern, ##### could not have believed that ***** was ill, tired, or driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol prior to effectuating a stop of *****’s vehicle.
  7. *****’s driving pattern did not affect traffic. *****’s driving pattern did not require any vehicles or pedestrians to take evasive action.
  8. *****’s driving pattern did not create a reasonable safety concern. *****’s driving pattern was not erratic or abnormal.  *****’s driving pattern was practical.
  9. 9.     #####’s pre-stop observations of ***** (i.e. driving pattern) are memorialized on [#####’s] in-car video.
  10. It should be noted that it was raining on October 29, 2011 at approximately 2:22 a.m.
  11. It is unknown why ##### cited ***** for Disobey/Avoid Traffic Device, Florida Statute 316.074(1) and not Failure to Maintain a Single Lane, Florida Statute 316.089.

FACTS: POST-STOP

  1. Upon making contact with *****, ##### allegedly observed ***** exhibit numerous signs of impairment such as: an odor of alcoholic beverage; glassy eyes; slurred speech; fumbled with paperwork; and lethargic movements.  [4]
  2. 13.  #####’s post-stop observations of ***** are memorialized on [#####’s] in-car video.
  3. 14.  Although #####’s in-car video cannot prove/disprove whether ***** exhibited an odor of alcohol beverage or glassy eyes, the in-car video does not show ***** exhibiting slurred/mumbled speech, fumbling with paperwork, or acting lethargically.
  4. 15.  ***** advised ##### that he “did not have anything to drink that evening”.
  5. 16.  ##### did not observe ***** outside of his vehicle prior to requesting DUI Task Force, Deputy Robert Hager, (hereinafter referred to as “HAGER”) to arrive on scene.

MEMORANDUM OF LAW

#####’s actions in this case must be scrutinized carefully in light of the Constitutional requirements which must be adhered to when there is any search and seizure by a State official.  #####’s actions in this matter do not pass constitutional muster because ##### did not have probable cause to stop *****’s vehicle for any traffic infraction.

In Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806 (1996), the Supreme Court of the United States held that the constitutional reasonableness of traffic stops does not depend on the actual motivations of the individual involved.  Although Whren and its progeny have stood for the position that an officer’s reason(s) to initiate a stop are immaterial and such a stop is reasonable when the officer has probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred, it is still necessary to consider the officer’s motivations and scrutinize their credibility to ensure that the traffic violation actually occurred.      The objective test in determining the constitutional validity of a traffic stop asks only whether any probable cause for the stop existed, making the subjective knowledge, motivation or intention of the individual officer involved wholly irrelevant. Id.

When one turns to the facts of the present case, one cannot come to the conclusion that under the totality of the circumstances, any reasonable officer would have stopped *****’s vehicle for any traffic violation, including Florida Statute 316.074(1).  As Florida Statute 316.074(1) provides very little guidance as to what constitutes a violation of the law, undersigned counsel will also reference Florida Statute 316.089 – Driving on Roadways Laned for Traffic (aka “Failure to Maintain a Single Lane”) to support *****’s argument that ##### effectuated a traffic stop of [*****’s] vehicle without probable cause.

Florida Statute 316.074(1) – Obedience to and Required Traffic Control Device

            The driver of any vehicle shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device applicable thereto, placed in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, unless otherwise directed by a police officer, subject to the exceptions granted the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle in this chapter.

Florida Statute 316.089 – Driving on Roadways Laned for Traffic

            Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic, the following rules in addition to all other consistent herewith, shall apply:

(1)  A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.

CASE LAW

  1. Failure to Maintain a Single Lane / Disobey Traffic Control Device

This Honorable Court has undoubtedly heard dozens, if not hundreds, of Motions to Suppress concerning the issue of whether law enforcement’s observations of an individual “straddling and/or swerving within a single lane” constitutes a valid basis for a traffic stop.   The Fourth District has held previously that the failure to maintain a single lane, alone, may, under appropriate circumstances, establish probable cause.  See Roberts v. State, 732 So.2d 1127, 1128 (Fla. 4th DCA, 1999).  Such circumstances, however, were not met in this case.    Most critically, there was no indication, suggestion, or basis for ##### to suspect that ***** was intoxicated or impaired based on his driving pattern.  See Crooks v. State, 710 So.2d 1041 (Fla. 2nd DCA, 1998).   Additionally, as recently stated by the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Hurd v. State, 958 So.2d 600, 603 (Fla. 4th DCA, 2007), “the failure to maintain a single lane alone cannot establish probable cause when the action is done safely.”   The graveman in every situation involving “failure to maintain a single lane” is whether the driver’s vehicle interfered, endangered, or affected traffic or created a reasonable safety concern.  As evidenced by #####’s in-car video, at no time over a twenty-one block stretch of Federal Highway did *****’s vehicle interfere, endanger, or affect traffic or creating a reasonable safety concern.

In State v. Fedor, 14 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 34a (17th Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County, 2006), the Circuit Court held that there was no error in granting a Motion to Suppress where evidence indicated that defendant’s vehicle “drifted to the left of lane four times between the 3900 and 4400 block” (5 blocks) as [Fedor’s] driving did not affect other traffic and no one had to take evasive action.

As in our case, Fedor was cited for Florida Statute 316.074(1); unlike our case, Fedor allegedly drifted over the line four times within five blocks; ***** allegedly drifted over the line four times within twenty-one blocks.

In State v. Parra, 14 Fla. L. Weekly 986a (17th Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County, 2007), the Circuit Court held that stop was not justified by the defendant’s failure to obey a traffic control device.

In Parra, law enforcement testified that while following Parra over the course of a mile, [Parra] “jerked left twice – breaking the lane – then drifted from the inner most lane into the emergency lane and back … in addition to traveling slower than the normal flow of traffic”.   In determining whether law enforcement had probable cause to effectuate a stop, the Circuit Court cited Crooks in holding that a violation of Florida Statute 316.089, required more than a mere departure from the lane of traffic, but rather that the driver’s conduct created a reasonable safety concern.   Similar to our case, the Parra Court did not believe the defendant’s driving pattern affected other traffic or evidenced a reasonable safety concern in granting the Motion to Suppress.   Also similar to our case, it is unknown why law enforcement cited the driver under Florida Statute 316.074(1) instead of Florida Statute 316.089.  Unlike our case, Parra allegedly committed these infractions over the course of one mile; ***** allegedly committed these infractions over the course of two and one tenth miles.

In State v. Culpepper, 15 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 585c (17th Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County, 2008), the Circuit Court held that “[Culpepper’s] tires crossing over the right fog line before the grass area along the lane … then passing slightly over the left lane center marking and then immediately right itself back into its own lane” did not provide law enforcement with probable cause to effectuate a traffic stop.

Again, the Court held that the determining factor was whether the driver’s vehicle interfered or endangered other traffic or was driving erratically.  Culpepper goes on to say that Florida Statute 316.089 requires a vehicle “to be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane.   The stature does not require perfect driving.”

As evident by #####’s in-car video and assuming arguendo that *****’s vehicle did

in fact “swerve over and straddle the solid bike line marker (4x) in the 1500, 1600, 2100 and 2600 blocks of North Federal Highway”, *****’s vehicle did not interfere or endanger other traffic.  Importantly, ##### does not allege that ***** committed any additional traffic violations (such as speeding, sudden braking, running a red light, etc.) under less than ideal weather conditions (i.e. rain) over twenty-one blocks of highway.  Additionally, the Courts in Fedor, Parra, and (presumably) Culpepper granted the defendants’ Motion to Suppress over much shorter distances.   Nothing in *****’s driving pattern would suggest to ##### that ***** was ill, tired, or driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.   There are dozens, if not hundreds, of innocent reasons why *****’s vehicle may have slightly straddled a bike lane in the early morning hours in the rain; *****’s driving was more than practical given the situation. “Where a motorist is stopped for an alleged traffic code violation that subsequently proves not to be a violation of any traffic law, or where there was not probable cause of a traffic infraction, the evidence seized following such stop should be suppressed.  Accordingly as ***** was not in violation Florida Statute 316.074(1) or Florida Statute 316.089, #####’s stop of ***** was unlawful and the evidence obtained as a result of the unlawful stop should be suppressed.

  1. No Reasonable Suspicion to Submit to Roadside Exercises

The defense submits that law enforcement did not possess a reasonable suspicion to request ***** to submit to roadside exercises.  A law enforcement officer must possess reasonable suspicion that an individual committed a crime, i.e. DUI, before requesting the individual perform roadside exercises. [5] While the probable cause affidavit authored by HAGER reflects that ##### advised [HAGER] the ***** exhibited an odor of alcohol, glassy eyes, slurred speech, fumbled with paperwork, and lethargic movements, ***** does not exhibit these signs of impairment on #####’s in-car video.  *****’s speech is clearly not slurred or mumbled.    ***** is not observed fumbling with paperwork or acting lethargically.   ***** is coherent and appropriately answers #####’s questions.  ***** pulled over his vehicle without incident or delay.   ***** advised ##### that he “did not have anything to drink”. Of note, ##### did not observe ***** outside his [*****’s] vehicle before summonsing DUI Task Force, more specifically HAGER, to perform roadside exercises.    As such, ##### did not observe ***** stumble or sway outside the vehicle.  Amazingly, ##### spent more time following *****’s vehicle on Federal Highway then he spent speaking with ***** before summonsing DUI Task Force. 

Numerous cases out of Broward County have provided examples in DUI investigations when law enforcement did not have reasonable suspicion to request a driver to submit to roadside exercises. [6]  As #####’s credibility is placed into issue as a result of the contradictions between his alleged observations of ***** and his in-car video (i.e. slurred speech, fumbling with paperwork, acting lethargically), the Court should have little confidence in #####’s other (non-verified) observations such as odor of alcohol, glassy eyes, etc.   Of note, consuming alcohol and driving an automobile is not in and of itself a crime.  [7]

By ##### detaining ***** and summonsing HAGER to arrive on scene to conduct roadside exercises, ##### improperly detained ***** without the requisite reasonable suspicion to believe that ***** had committed, was committing, or was about to commit a crime.  [8]

WHEREFORE, the defendant respectfully requests this Honorable Court to grant the undersigned counsel’s motion to suppress.



[1] Probable Cause Affidavit attached and incorporated hereto.

[2] It is approximately 2.1 miles from 1200 block of North Federal Highway to the 3200/3300 block of North Federal Highway.

[3] ##### only cited ***** under Florida Statute, 316.074(1), properly titled Obedience to and Required Traffic Control Device.

[4] #####’s probable cause affidavit does not mention that ***** exhibited “flushed face” or “bloodshot eyes”, however.

[5] State v. Taylor, 648 So.2d 701 (Fla. 1995).

[6] See State v. Ammerman, 10 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 236b (17th Judicial Circuit of Florida, 2001); State v. Cum, 15 Fla. L. Weekly Supp 137a (17th Judicial Circuit of Florida, 2007);  State v. Leach, 11 Fla. L. Weekly Supp 669c (17th Judicial Circuit of Florida, 2004); State v. Medina-Moya, 11 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 309 (Fla. 17th Judicial Circuit of Florida, 2004).

[7] Leach.

[8] See Popple v. State, 626 So. 2d 185 (Fla. 1993)