State drops DUI charge against former Clay County school board candidate

May 3, 2013

Coming up on two years after he was first arrested on a Clay County DUI charge, prosecutors have not chosen not to go forward with the case against a Clay County lawyer and former school board candidate. During a pretrial hearing last month, the State Attorney's Office announced it would drop the charges against Joseph Wiggins, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Wiggins had maintained his innocence since his arrest in August 2011 and said he didn't know if the pending charge contributed to his defeat in a 2012 election for the Clay County School Board.

He was charged with misdemeanor DUI and was facing up to six months in jail. His case was pending for 20 months before the state decided to drop the charge. Jacksonville DUI Cases can be difficult for the state to prove, particularly if the suspect does not submit to a breathalyzer exam. There are specific procedures police must follow when making a Clay County DUI arrest, and, if they are not all followed precisely, the traffic stop can be thrown out and the state is left with very little to go on - sometimes nothing at all. A DUI arrest begins with a traffic stop and the officer must have a reasonable suspicion that the suspect is committing a crime or traffic infraction before he or she even approaches the vehicle. Once the officer begins speaking with a suspect, he or she must see or detect more suspicious activity before asking to perform field sobriety exercises. The typical reasons our Clay County DUI Attorney has seen in police reports through the years are: red or watery eyes, a subject smelling like alcohol, slurred speech or the person swaying when her or she stood or walked.

If an officer feels the suspect is showing one or more of these signs, the next step is asking the driver to perform field sobriety exercises. The defendant can decline, which will likely result in an immediate arrest, but would also limit evidence in a potential criminal case. The exercises are tailored to determine if a suspect is fit to be behind the wheel. The officer typically asks the suspect to walk in a straight line and turn around; stand on one leg; stand with his or her legs together to test balance; move their arms to touch their finger to their nose and recite the alphabet or a series of numbers in order (Rhomberg Alphabet). Each individual test has various indicators of impairment and, if a suspect has enough missteps during the testing, he or she will be arrested on a Clay County DUI Charge. From there, the suspect will be brought to the police station and told to take a breath test. Suspects in Clay County DUI Cases do not have to take the test, but, similar to field sobriety tests, refusing to take it means at least one night in jail. If the defendant does take the test, our Clay County DUI Attorney will examine the test and its results to be sure it was administered correctly, just as she will for the initial traffic stop.

While pleading guilty to a DUI in first appearance court make seem like the easiest and best option, a Clay County DUI Attorney can delve into the details of the case and in some instances find errors that could lead the charges being reduced or dropped. If you or a loved one needs a DUI attorney in Orange Park or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Clay County DUI Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.