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Unreasonably Prolonged Detention

In many DUI cases, the defense will file a motion to suppress evidence because of an unreasonably prolonged detention. If the motion is granted, the court will suppress any evidence gathered after the prolonged detention began which will often result in a dismissal of the charges for insufficient evidence.

The defense will often contend that the length of the detention was unreasonable given the lack of evidence of impairment, the observations of the law enforcement officers, and the other circumstances of the case.

The court will pay particular attention to when the officer developed evidence sufficient to support a reasonable suspicion that the Defendant was driving under the influence.

Attorney for Prolonged Detentions in DUI Cases in Tampa, FL

If your DUI case involves an unreasonably prolonged detention, then your criminal defense attorney will file a motion to suppress evidence illegally gained during that stop.

The attorney at the Sammis Law Firm understand the best defenses that apply to DUI cases.

Whether this is a first arrest for DUI or a second or subsequent accusation of drunk or impaired driving, we can help. With offices in Tampa and New Port Richey, FL, we provide free and confidential consultations.

Our attorneys are experienced in fighting DUI cases throughout the greater Tampa Bay area. Call us at 813-250-0500 to discuss your case.


Length of a Reasonable Detention

An officer who observes factors giving rise to a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed or has been committed, after making a lawful investigatory stop, may further detain a person in order to conduct a reasonable inquiry to confirm or deny that probable cause existed to make an arrest. State v. Taylor, 648 So. 2d 701, 703 (Fla. 1995) (citing § 901.151, Fla. Stat.).

The person may not be detained "longer than is reasonably necessary" to determine whether there is probable cause for an arrest. § 901.151(3).

"It is permissible to detain suspects for a reasonable time to investigate the circumstances warranting an investigatory stop as well as any suspicious circumstances produced by the stop." State v. Merklein, 388 So. 2d 218, 219 (Fla. 2d DCA 1980) (citing State v. Lopez, 369 So. 2d 623 (Fla. 2d DCA 1979)).


The Reasonableness of an Investigatory Detention

"The reasonableness of an investigatory detention depends on the circumstances surrounding the detention, and not solely on its length."Id. 

"In assessing whether a detention is too long in duration to be justified as an investigative stop," courts should "examine whether the police diligently pursued a means of investigation that was likely to confirm or dispel their suspicions quickly, during which time it was necessary to detain the defendant."U.S. v. Sharpe, 470 U.S. 675, 686 (1985).

In Sharpe, the Court stated: 

A court making this assessment should take care to consider whether the police are acting in a swiftly developing situation, and in such cases, the court should not indulge in unrealistic second-guessing.

A creative judge engaged in post hoc evaluation of police conduct can almost always imagine some alternative means by which the objectives of the police might have been accomplished.

But ‘[t]he fact that the protection of the public might, in the abstract, have been accomplished by less intrusive means does not, itself, render the search unreasonable.’

The question is not simply whether some other alternative was available, but whether the police acted unreasonably in failing to recognize or to pursue it. 

Id. at 686-87.

A court making such an assessment should question whether there was any “delay unnecessary to the legitimate investigation of the law enforcement officers,” or any “evidence that the officers were dilatory in their investigation.” See id. at 687-88. 


When Does the Seizure Occur?

A seizure occurs when “a reasonable person would conclude that he or she is not free to end the encounter and depart.” Popple v. State, 626 So. 2d 185, 188 (Fla. 1993).

An officer must have a reasonable suspicion an individual is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime, before that person may be detained. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968); § 901.151, Fla. Stat.

Evidence obtained as a result of an illegal stop must be suppressed. State v. Murphy, 793 So. 2d 112 (Fla. 2d DCA 2001).


Motions to Suppress for Prolonged Detentions

In many of these cases, the detention is unreasonable as a matter of law considering the facts and surrounding circumstances. Although the length of the detention alone is insufficient to render it unreasonable, additional facts may show that the officers’ actions were unreasonable.

In many of these cases, it is unreasonable for the officers to wait before conducting an accident investigation or DUI investigation.

The court will determine in these cases whether the officers acted unreasonably in pursuing the investigation or caused any unnecessary delay that would render the detention unreasonable. If so, the court must grant the motion to suppress on this basis.

If you were arrested for DUI, contact a drunk driving defense attorney in Tampa, FL, at Sammis Law Firm. Call 813-250-0500 for a free consultation.


This article was last updated on Monday, August 20, 2018.

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