The Florida Fifth District Court of Appeals heard a Florida DUI appeal and ruled that the stop of the driver was valid. In State v. Gentry, 36 Fla. L. Weekly D534a (Fla. 5th DCA March 10, 2011), the trial court granted the Florida DUI defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that was seized during a Florida DUI traffic stop.
The police officers saw the car stopped at 4:00 a.m. at a four-way stop for 20 minutes. The driver, Gentry, had his head down. When an officer tried to approach the vehicle, Gentry tried to drive off. Officers followed him and pulled him over. They held him the back of the patrol car when they determined that he did not have a valid license. Police officers searched the car, found drugs, and confirmed that the car was stolen.
The Florida appellate court ruled that an officer is justified in stopping a vehicle to determine the reason for the vehicle’s unusual operation. If an officer observes a vehicle operating in an unusual manner, there may be justification for a stop even when there is no violation of vehicular regulations and no citation is issued. The officer may be determining if the driver is ill, tired, or driving under the influence. In this Florida DUI case, the Florida court held that the officer’s suspicion that Gentry was impaired or ill was reasonable and justified the stop. Since the car was stolen, Gentry did not possess standing to challenge the search of the vehicle (Read Search of a Stolen Car in Jacksonville Vehicle Theft Cases).