Jeff Norman of The Huffington Post recently emailed me the following question:
"What makes it legal for police to detain a DUI arrestee until he or she is ‘sober,’ when the only purpose of the detention is to maintain safety, and there is no intent to bring the arrestee before a judge for arraignment? I’m not questioning anything about the arrest or booking process; I’m only asking about the extended detention (usually an overnight jail stay) that begins when the booking process has been completed. I believe such detentions are illegal, despite conventional wisdom which suggests otherwise. Your thoughts?"
What Jeff is referring to is Florida statute section 316.193(9) which states:
"A person who is arrested for [DUI] may not be released from custody:
(a) Until the person is no longer under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance . . ., or any [controlled] substance . . . and affected to the extent that his or her normal faculties are impaired;
(b) Until the person’s blood-alcohol level or breath-alcohol level is less than 0.05; or
(c) Until 8 hours have elapsed from the time the person was arrested."
Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal dealt with Jeff’s question in the case of State of Florida v. Atkinson. In Atkinson, one of the issues that the Court was asked to decide was whether putting someone in jail for 8 hours after he is arrested for DUI is a violation of the double jeopardy clause of the Florida Constitution and the United States Constitution. In other words, is a person who is jailed for 8 hours after being arrested for DUI being punished twice if he is subsequently prosecuted for DUI? If the answer is yes, then such a procedure is a double-jeopardy violation, and the prosecuting authority should not be permitted to prosecute that person for DUI.
The Atkinson Court did not agree, however, that locking someone up for 8 hours after being arrested for DUI and later prosecuting that same person for DUI is a double-jeopardy violation. The Court reasoned that:
"The practice of detaining an intoxicated driver is to protect that driver and the community from an unreasonable danger imposed by drunken driving. It is a situation analogous to the detention of persons under quarantine orders wherein a threat is posed to the public health and safety. . . . There is no claim or indication in this case that the statute is being arbitrarily enforced in an unconstitutional manner."