A frustrating issue defending those accused of Driving Under the Influence or DUI, has been the lack of a definition of the word “impaired” in the standard jury instructions. Without a breath, blood or urine result or sample the State of Florida must prove that the person is “impaired” in order to convict a person of DUI. This is especially true if the accused is DUI by drugs or prescriptions. However, the Florida Supreme Court in issuing jury instructions has sought fit to leave the word “impaired” undefined.
It is still not illegal to drink and drive, note all of the parking lots in front of bars and clubs. What is illegal is to drive with a reading over a .08 or while impaired. A case from 2001 defined “impaired” as a worsening or diminishment in some material respect. However, not all judges would adopt this ruling and insert that definition into their jury instructions. The result was that juries have been instructed differently within the same courthouse. The fact that all juries determining a DUI are not instructed the same could be perceived as unfair or unjust.
Fortunately, the Florida Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases has finally submitted a proposal to amend the DUI Instructions to include a definition of “impaired” as meaning “worsened or diminished in some material respect”. Hopefully, this will be adopted and we can avoid arguments such as a person is impaired the moment alcohol passes their lips. Adopting the definition would make criminal DUI trials more fair to all involved.
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