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Criminal Update

A Boynton Beach woman faces multiple charges, including DUI and child abuse, after a stop along I-95 in Broward County.

Prior to the stop, Florida Highway Patrol officers received reports of a red car driving on its rims on Hollywood Boulevard. A short time later, troopers spotted a red Kia with severe rim damage parked in the I-95 emergency lane near the State Road 84 interchange. Police approached the driver – 43-year-old Colleen Loughman – who was sitting in the driver’s seat with the ignition on, and they immediately noticed a smell of alcohol. They also noticed that a small child was asleep in the back seat.

Ms. Loughman reportedly told police that she had three beers, three Xanax, and one Zoloft immediately prior to driving. She failed field sobriety tests and briefly resisted before troopers placed her into custody, at one point threatening to “call CNN,” according to the dash cam video.

The unharmed two-year-old child, who apparently slept through the entire incident, was released into the custody of his father.

Stops Prior to Arrests

Police officers must have reasonable suspicion to stop vehicles without making an arrest. Typically, reasonable suspicion means specific articulable facts that point to possible criminal activity.

In most cases, reasonable suspicion comes in the form of a traffic violation that the officer actually observed, such as speeding or making an unsafe lane change, or technical violations, like expired inspection stickers or partially-obscured license plates.

Sometimes, the officers receive tips from informants, as was the case in the above story. These stops do not fit the classic definition of reasonable suspicion, because the officers did not actually see the defendant do anything wrong. Indeed, in this case, Ms. Loughman was not even “driving” the car, in the ordinary sense of the word. In these situations, courts normally look to the specificity of the tip, the reliability of the tipster, and the amount of time that passes between the tip and the stop.

The Arrest

To make an arrest after a stop, officers must have probable cause, which is a higher standard than reasonable suspicion. Instead of a general sense that something is amiss based on the circumstances, officers must have specific facts that connect the defendant to a specific crime.

In DUIs, probable cause is usually based on the results of a breath or blood test. However, if a test is not conducted or the driver refuses to take a test, probable cause must come from field tests. There are a variety of informal tests that officers sometimes use, such as reciting a portion of the ABCs, but only three tests are approved by the federal government. They are:

  • Walk and Turn: Officers are supposed to allow suspects to remove their shoes and find a straight and level line to walk, but these things do not always happen.
  • One Leg Stand: Physical dexterity is also a key component in these tests, although officers are also evaluating the suspect’s ability to follow directions.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: Involuntary eye movements supposedly provide proof of intoxication, but this test is only about 85 percent reliable.

In all these tests, zooming traffic, flashing patrol car lights, the suspect’s nervousness, and other adverse conditions often affect the results.

Partner with Aggressive Attorneys

If you are facing criminal charges, your best defense is an aggressive lawyer who will attack the state’s evidence. For prompt assistance in this matter, contact the Port St. Lucie attorneys at the Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

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