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Ramirez v. State (7th Judicial Circuit, Volusia County July 31, 2015)

Driver was stopped for speeding.  During initial contact at the driver's door, the Deputy detected "an odor of alcohol coming from the Defendant."  The Deputy also indicated that the driver had difficulties obtaining his driver's license.  Based only on these factors, the Deputy ordered the driver to exit his car to conduct a DUI investigation.  Field sobriety exercises were then completed and the driver was arrested for DUI.  The Defense filed a motion to suppress saying that those two factors alone were not enough to give the deputy "reasonable suspicion" that the driver was under the influence.  Thus, the Deputy did not have the authority to order him out of the car.  The Court agreed saying that just because an officer believes that a driver has consumed alcohol does not mean he can order them out of the car without "more facts and circumstances showing a probability that a driver is impaired by alcohol or has an unlawful amount in his system."  The Deputy made no other observations of impairment, he did not observed the Defendant's eyes, there was no indication of slurred speech or flushed face.  there simply was no other evidence to support the deputies suspicion that the driver's normal faculties were impaired. 

This case is a County Court case so it would not necessarily binding on our circuit, only persuasive.  It could still be very useful as guidance to our Judges when the initial contact between an officer and driver involves very little actual evidence.  It is important to evaluate the initial evidence that the officer uses to then initiate further investigation.  If the Court agrees that there wasn't enough in the beginning then it may grant a Motion to Suppress.