Goodman Hearings Continued

The continuation of the Goodman hearings in advance of the October 6th re-trial date are underway again this morning. As discussed in last week’s article, Goodman’s retrial regarding the highly publicized 2010 Wellington crash that resulted in Scott Patrick Wilson’s death is scheduled to begin on October 6, 2014. Today, one of the issues to be discussed is the validity of the blood alcohol test results due to the methods used to collect Goodman’s blood after the fatal crash.

Laura Barfield, a former crime lab analyst at FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement), took the stand this morning to testify about the blood testing methods used in the Goodman case. Barfield was the manager of the alcohol testing program at FDLE in 2010 during the initial testing of Goodman’s blood. However, she resigned in April of 2013 in the wake of a scandal involving her alleged charging of personal expenses on her State credit card.

Barfield testified this morning that there are various steps necessary when taking a blood draw and testing that are all important to obtain the proper result. For example, the use a non-alcohol wipe is crucial so as not to introduce outside alcohol into the blood sample when blood is being drawn. Additionally, the Goodman defense team has raised the argument that Goodman’s blood alcohol test results are flawed because the wrong sized needle was used; however, according to Barfield, the testing rules do not require a certain sized needle to be used.

The hearings will continue today and go through Wednesday. The Palm Beach Post has a live feed of the testimony, found here.

In Florida, blood tests are typically the most accurate of the alcohol level tests, but also are considered to be the most invasive. As a result, blood draws are only permitted in limited circumstances (without consent), such as where there was an accident involving great bodily injury or death. In Florida DUI cases, defense attorneys are sometimes able to argue that blood results are invalid and should be suppressed for a variety of issues, including: the use of an alcohol swab to clean the skin before the blood is drawn (as discussed above); testing blood serum as opposed to a whole blood sample; the ingestion of certain prescriptions, medicines, vitamins and foods that could affect the blood results; fermentation in the sample vial; an insufficient sample amount due to blood coagulation; blood vial mix ups; and blood vial contamination.

A Palm Beach DUI lawyer can investigate these potential defenses when someone has been charged with a driving under the influence charge involving a blood draw.

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

Goodman Hearings

In the ongoing Palm Beach County DUI manslaughter case of Goodman v. State, the first of three days of hearings began today. Goodman’s retrial regarding the highly publicized 2010 Wellington crash that resulted in Scott Patrick Wilson’s death is scheduled to begin on October 6, 2014.

Previously, Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath had ordered that jurors will be taken from out of town and brought to Palm Beach County for the retrial, in an attempt to avoid an unfair trial due to the publicity this case has received. Defense attorneys argued this morning a renewed motion to have the whole trial moved to a different town, instead of shipping out-of-town jurors to Palm Beach. Defense attorneys for Goodman argued that the cost to bring in out-of-town jurors would not only be exorbitant, but that jurors sequestered from out of town are historically more likely to convict a defendant as a result of their anger at being away from their homes for extended periods of time. Judge Colbath denied this request. In his ruling, the judge did express concerns regarding the expenses of the jury sequestration, discussing that it cost $33,000 to sequester George Zimmerman’s jury and approximately $187,0000 to sequester Casey Anthony’s jury. However, it would be expensive to sequester a jury picked within the confines of Palm Beach, as well.

Judge Colbath is expected later today to rule as to whether potential jurors will be from Jacksonville or Tampa. Jury selection will take place in one of the cities, and after selection is completed, six jurors and up to four alternates will be brought back to Palm Beach County. The selected jurors will be sequestered for the entire trial, which is expected to last nearly one month.

More hearings are scheduled to take place tomorrow and Wednesday on various issues, including: Goodman’s vehicle, which was released by prosecutors as evidence, the validity of Goodman’s blood alcohol test, and the testimony of a Wellington bartender.

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

Drink Responsibly

Budweiser’s new commercial has a strong message. The next time you go out, be sure to make a plan to get home safely; your furry friends are counting on you! Drink responsibly. #FriendsAreWaiting

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

Anxiety and DUI Arrests in Florida

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One of the most common observations made by officers during a DUI stop is that the driver was weaving in his or her lane.

However, when officers make this observation, they are often following behind a driver. The “normal” response for a driver who is being followed by a police officer is to become nervous and anxious. Even people who have done nothing wrong find themselves double checking their mirrors and slowing down when they become aware that a marked police vehicle is behind them. The longer the officer follows, the more nervous a person typically becomes; the more nervous a person grows, the more that person checks his mirror, taking his eyes of the road, and drifting in his lane.

Undoubtedly, the result is weaving, drifting, and attempts at correction, which can create the appearance that the driver is under the influence of alcohol. Meanwhile, the police officer has most likely been recording the entire incident on his in-car camera, capturing what he believes to be evidence of a drunk driver to present in court later.

A police officer needs reasonable suspicion to stop a driver for a DUI investigation. Interestingly, in the scenario above, the police officer’s own act of driving behind the vehicle has caused driver’s actions, which then give the police officer reasonable suspicion to believe that a DUI is being committed. After all, erratic actions, weaving within a lane, and varying speeds are actual indicators that someone is under the influence.

If a driver has been pulled over, now it is typical for the driver to become even more nervous. A person who has just been followed by a police officer, who has been exposed to the flashing lights and sirens, and who has been approached by an officer in full uniform may start sweating, stuttering, and appear flushed due to an increased heart rate. The person may fumble with his or her wallet when asked to present a driver’s license and proof of insurance. On top of this, the investigating officer likely already believes that driver is under the influence based on his or her driving pattern. So now, the officer notes bloodshot eyes as an indicator of impairment, when they could have simply been dry from the air conditioner, or tired from driving. If the person has had a drink, the “evidence” keeps piling on. Now there is an “odor of alcoholic beverage” on the driver’s breath, and an admission that the person was drinking if he responds to the police officer’s question of “have you been drinking tonight” with “I only had two drinks a couple of hours ago!”

At this point, the officer will typically ask a person to exit the vehicle and perform field sobriety exercises. A driver who does not know the exercises are voluntary may perform the exercises, perform poorly (maybe the driver naturally has poor balance, or an injury, combined with being anxious), and ultimately be placed under arrest for driving under the influence without even the results of a breathalyzer. If the person refuses to submit to a breath test, that refusal will be used as additional evidence against the person, and in a trial, the prosecutor will be able to argue that the driver refused the breath test because he “knew” the results would be above the limit (even if that wasn’t the reason for refusal).

Obviously, not all DUI arrests are a result of an encounter between a nervous person and an overzealous police officer. However, many of the standard “indicators of impairment” can be created in the scenario described above and cause the arrest of a person who was not actually under the influence to the extent his or her normal faculties were impaired.

There are many defenses to a DUI charge, and anyone who is facing a DUI in Palm Beach County should contact a Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney to discuss his or her potential defenses.

Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.