A local South Florida elementary school teacher was arrested on August 4, 2010 for the offense of driving under the influence (DUI) and other felony charges. Police officers from the Homestead Police Department indicated in the arrest affidavit and accompanying reports that Joann Tomas, of Dr. Williams Chapman elementary school, was weaving in an out of traffic when she was pulled over to the side of the roadway. The police officers noticed that the defendant had watery eyes, a flushed face and slurred speech. Tomas had difficulty finding her driver's license, registration and proof of insurance. While exiting the vehicle, she lost her balance and had to use the vehicle to support herself to prevent falling to the ground. The officers requested that Tomas perform field sobriety exercises to determine if she was impaired. The officer directing the exercises determined that she did not perform to standard and arrested her for DUI. A Miami criminal defense lawyer that defends DUI cases will tell you that this is a pretty standard report filed by police officers. However, in many cases, even if an arrest affidavit alleges facts that appear to be unbeatable, there are still defenses to a case of this type.
The first thing that should be looked into when establishing a defense to DUI is to examine the driving pattern in a particular case. While weaving in and out of traffic and failing to maintain a single lane are not the best factual scenarios when defending a DUI, speeding and following too closely are not driving patterns that indicate that a driver was impaired. To properly evaluate a case, defense counsel must look at the reason for the initial stop. In some instances, if the officer did not have a reasonable suspicion that a traffic infraction had been committed, a motion to suppress should be filed, and if granted, would preclude the prosecutor from introducing any evidence that was obtained as a result of the illegal stop. As in any drug possession or drug trafficking case, if a motion to suppress is granted, the state can not proceed to trial as the majority of the evidence collected by the police is inadmissible at trial.
Another bit of evidence that the police and the prosecutor like to hang their hat on are the physical characteristics of the defendant noted by the police officers. The favorite buzz words used by the police are flushed face, bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. There are a number of explanations that can be presented to a jury explaining these conditions. For example, a day out in the sun can result in a flushed face or bloodshot eyes. Slurred speech can be attributed to a strong accent or a medical condition. Of course, officers always note that the driver had a strong odor of alcohol coming from his or her breath. But any honest officers will testify that the odor does not indicate how much or what a person had to drink.
Roadside exercises are difficult to perform drunk or sober. The results of the exercises are very subjective. The best course of action for anyone pulled over for a DUI investigation is to refuse to perform the exercises. While this course of action will lead to an arrest, keep in mind that the officer will probably make the arrest anyway, so why not improve your chances in court. The same goes for the breathylizer. While a refusal will result in an arrest, a breath reading over .08 is more difficult to overcome in court. If you blow .00, the officers will request that you give a urine sample to see if you have any drugs in your system. Refuse that test as well. It is much easier to get a favorable result in state criminal court on a double refusal case, than a case in which roadsides were performed and a breath sample taken. Also remember, invoke your rights to speak to a criminal attorney. Any statements proved to the police regarding alcohol consumption will be used in court to prosecute the case.
Always remember to be polite. Tomas became confrontational with the arresting officers. At the jail, she removed her handcuffs and allegedly threw them at an officer. It is also alleged that she kicked an officer in the groin and attempted to punch another. As a result of her actions, she was also charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence Remember, it is difficult enough to beat a DUI charge, do not compound the problem with more serious felony charges.
Miami-Dade Teacher Jailed in DUI Case Won't be Returning to Class, The Miami Herald.com, August 18, 2010.