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LEP Woman Arrested For DUI


Florida Highway Patrol officers arrested a Port St. Lucie woman with limited English proficiency for DUI after she allegedly failed field sobriety tests and admitted to drinking.

Although the woman, who was Russian, told the officer almost immediately that she spoke little English, the officer proceeded with the stop by using a translation app. The officer initially pulled her over for travelling 101mph in a 70mph zone. After he approached the vehicle, the officer detected an odor of alcohol and asked the woman to perform field sobriety tests. Upon their conclusion, the officer searched the car, finding two empty wine bottles. She agreed to provide a breath sample, and blew a 0.183 on the Breathalyzer, which is over three times the legal limit.

Officers then took the Sunny Isles Beach woman into custody.

DUI Penalties

In court, prosecutors may establish DUI by proving that the defendant had lost the normal use of his/her physical or mental faculties, or that the defendant had a BAC of .08 or above. Note that a Breathalyzer measures breath alcohol and then uses that amount to estimate blood alcohol level, so in borderline cases, the results are often questionable. However, 0.183 is definitely not borderline. The maximum direct punishment is:

  • A $500 to $1000 fine ($1000 to $2000 if the defendant’s BAC was 0.15 or above) and
  • Six months in jail (nine months for a BAC of 0.15 or higher).

Nearly all defendants receive probation in first-time DUIs. Court supervision can last up to twelve months.

Other punishments may apply as well. A DUI arrest or conviction almost always means drivers’ license suspension. For most first DUIs, the suspension periods are six months for a failed chemical test, twelve months for a refusal, and twelve months for a conviction. The suspension periods may run concurrently. Moreover, some cases involve vehicle impoundment of up to ten days.

DUI Defenses

The above story raises the question of when, and why, a defendant is entitled to an interpreter.

Florida law states that a person who cannot communicate in English is entitled to an interpreter before “interrogation” begins. Usually, this word means custodial interrogation, which take place after the defendant is arrested and transported to the stationhouse. However, this particular section of the law does not define “interrogation,” and logically, the term can also mean questions at the scene, such as “have you been drinking tonight?”

The smartphone app may not have been much help, as cars were probably whizzing past the scene and not all phrases translate directly from English into Russian and vice versa.

That language or culture gap is significant in field tests, because the officer is measuring not only the defendant’s physical abilities, but also the defendant’s cognitive ability. If the defendant cannot understand the instructions, the defendant will almost definitely score poorly on this portion of the tests.

These deficiencies may or may not be enough to defeat probable cause and thereby invalidate the arrest. Most likely, the judge would decide this issue during pretrial motions.

Partner with Aggressive Attorneys

There are many defenses available in DUI cases. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.



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