Florida Impaired Driving Coalition (FIDC)
In 2009, the Florida Impaired Driving Coalition (FIDC) was established to reduce impaired driving-related deaths and injuries by addressing impaired driving legislation, judicial rulings, new technologies, education, and enforcement protocols.
By bringing together technical stakeholders and subject matter experts from various disciplines, FIDC provides recommendations and reviews impaired driving issues. The non-compensated members represent a broad cross-section of public and private sector entities with a working knowledge and understanding of Florida’s impaired driving system.
Since FIDC was officially chartered in 2014, its members meet at least three times a year. The organization’s charter allows it to establish technical committees as needed.
Since its formation, the Florida Impaired Driving Coalition (FIDC) has been extremely critical of DUI diversion programs being implemented throughout Florida. Most items on its platform favor law enforcement and prosecution over the rights of the accused.
According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) 2017 Highway Safety Plan, the FIDC’s annual budget is more than $100,000.00. It receives funding from the FDOT.
The impaired driving defense attorneys in Tampa, FL, at Sammis Law Firm pay attention to organizations like FIDC. These organizations tremendously impact proposed legislation, enforcement policies, and how DUIs are prosecuted.
Most importantly, the training materials intended for the officers, prosecutors, or judges are also helpful to the defense. Understanding the work done by the FIDC can help any criminal defense attorney fight DUI cases more effectively.
Problems with Judges Participating in FIDC
FIDC recruits senior judges despite the conflicts it creates. For example, one FIDC member, The Honorable Karl Grube, completed outreach with the Florida Conference of County Court Judges and represented the conference.
One of the organization’s objectives is to expand membership to include representatives from “Judges Associations” and the “Florida Conference of County Court Judges.”
Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 4A(1) provides that membership in some organizations or advocacy for some causes may be sufficient to “cast reasonable doubt on [a] judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge” and result in frequent requests for recusal.
Judges must also be careful about lending judicial prestige to a private entity or activist organization (Fla. Code Jud. Conduct 2B) or arousing reasonable concerns about impartiality among lawyers or other persons involved in court cases involving impaired driving.
In Opinion Number: 2017-02, dated January 19, 2017, the JEAC (Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee) considered whether a judge could accept an appointment to the Florida Impaired Driving Coalition, an advisory body to the Florida Department of Transportation.
The JEAC decided the answer was “yes” but provided “that the Coalition does not engage in matters that could reasonably be perceived as favoring the State in DUI prosecutions.”
This decision defies reality because everything FIDC is intended to favor the State in DUI prosecutions. According to FIDC’s Fact Sheet in 2014, FIDC is focused on keeping specialized DUI prosecutors in place, developing a master DUI prosecutor program, and increasing DUI training for prosecutors.
It does not appear that the organization serves defense attorneys or has any as members.
According to FICD’s Charter, the Florida Impaired Driving Coalition’s mission is to maximize the state’s ability to reduce impaired driving crashes, serious injuries, and fatalities.
FIDC developed an Impaired Driving Plan (IDP) that serves as the State’s blueprint for programs, funding, and legislative strategies. Florida’s IDP plan focuses on “increasing Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrests and convictions.”
Additional evidence that the organization favors the State in DUI prosecutions can be found by reading the drafts of model legislative language proposed by FIDC.
Problems with DHMSV BAR Officials Participating in FIDC
The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) Bureau of Administrative Review (BAR) actively participates in FIDC.
FIDC’s website claims it is credited with “prompting the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle (DHSMV) Bureau of Administrative Review (BAR) to develop a training and technical assistance program for law enforcement and hearing officers to assist with the administrative hearing process.”
Those training systems resulted in several motions to disqualify hearing officers filed in formal review hearings since hearing officers should be “neutral.”
For example, in Sarris v. DHSMV, 26 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 68a (2018), a court in the Fourth Judicial Circuit found the hearing officer erred in denying both the Motion to Disqualify and the Motion to Invalidate based on due process problems during the hearing. The Sarris Court then quashed the order of suspension and required the DHMSV to remove the administrative suspension from the driving record.
The Sarris Court reasoned:
Hearing officers in Florida are required to be neutral and any action on the part of the B.A.R. or its hearing officers that amounts to advocating for one side over the other is a violation of due process. Id. at 542 (“We agree that the hearing officer departed from her neutral role as magistrate when she stopped the hearing, located the registration certificate. . . and entered it as evidence during the hearing.”).
A litigant is entitled to have confidence that the hearing officer before whom he or she appears is acting impartially as a fact finder.” Id. at 542; Ducre v. State, 768 So.2d 1159 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2000).
It is troubling to this Court that anyone could feel confident that a hearing presided over by the B.A.R. would be fair or presided over by a magistrate who is neutral considering that the B.A.R. seems to be just as concerned about invalidation rates as those in law enforcement would be. When reviewing the training manual:
a) The very first page of the B.A.R.’s training manual states that the percentage of suspensions that are sustained at formal review hearings stands at an incredible 95.3%.
b) In commenting on this successful campaign to keep such rates high, the manual asks the police officers, “While sustained rates of 95% and 90% are good and indicative of the fine work you are doing, how many of you would like to see those numbers even higher?” This also is a comment by the hearing officers and the B.A.R. as a whole that there is a firmly held belief that the police officers are doing “fine work” in all cases.
c) The B.A.R. goes on to try and offer the police tips on how to reduce the number of invalidations. “Let’s look at the reasons for those invalidations and what might be done to reduce the number that are invalidated.” The manual goes on to list the common reasons why suspensions are invalidated and how to avoid them.
d)The training also includes tips on what information should go into the probable cause affidavit.
e) The training also discussed case law that can be considered “law enforcement friendly.
It should go without saying that parties to an adversarial hearing such as this should never be provided with strategic tips by the judge or magistrate. McFadden v. State, 732 So.2d 1180 (Fla.4th DCA 1999) (judge departed from neutral role when he invited the state to cure the defects in its case by revising its complaint to meet the elements of the violation and was actively examining witnesses); Chastine v. Broome, 629 So.2d 293 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993) (judge was advocating for the state when he passed a note to the prosecutor giving the attorney strategy tips).
“While we see no constitutional infirmity in non-lawyers serving as hearing officers under sec. 322.2615, we do strongly caution those hearing officers that they must take extraordinary care to be as impartial and neutral as the members of the judiciary are required to be.” Griffin v. State, 909 So.2d at 542.
As one local circuit judge has noted, the minds of the hearing officers “. . .are made up before the hearing, and indeed, an order affirming the suspension is already drawn.” Detlefsen v. DHSMV, Case No. 16-2012-CA-6869 (4th Jud. Cir. Ct. 8/1/13) [20 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 1022a].
For all of these reasons, hearing officer and their supervisors with the DHSMV should not be members of or participate in the activities of the FIDC.
If the hearing officers or their supervisors participate in FIDC, the criminal defense attorney should file the appropriate motions to disqualify that hearing officer.
FIDC’s Drafts of Model Language Concerning Impaired Driving
The Florida Impaired Driving Coalition (FIDC) cannot lobby or promote legislative action.
Despite this prohibition, the organization claims that it merely “reviews” existing legislation and “provides language” that aligns with best practices identified by the Coalition.
Many believe that FIDC is crossing that essential line prohibiting lobbying and promoting legislative action.
For example, consider the fact that the Florida Impaired Driving Coalition (FIDC) has proposed adding the following model legislative language to Section 933.02(6) to add an additional grounds for the issuance of a search warrant to take blood by force:
“When a sample of the blood of a person constitutes evidence relevant to providing that a violation of s. 316.193 or s. 327.35 has been committed. “
According to a publication by FIDC on 05/04/18, the rationale for the model language adjustment is because:
“The addition of section 933.02(6) to existing language adds a reference to blood draws relevant to proving a motor vehicle or boat operator was intoxicated as grounds for issuance of a search warrant.
This addition will allow officers to more easily and reliably use blood draws as an alternative method to breath and field sobriety tests when the latter are not sufficient or inappropriate.”
“Existing language in section 933.02 Florida Statutes, does not reference blood draws relevant to proving a motor vehicle or boat operator was intoxicated as grounds for issuance of a search warrant. Without this reference, it is often difficult for an officer to obtain a search warrant allowing him/her to take a blood sample for the purpose of testing an offender’s level of intoxication when a field sobriety test or breath test are not sufficient or appropriate.”
Other proposed amendments involved Florida Statute 90.702 concerning testimony by experts. The organization proposed adding a fourth section to the statute that provided:
(4) A witness who has received training and holds current certification as a Drug Recognition Expert, issued by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, shall be qualified to give the testimony under this subdivision.
Who are the Members of the Florida Impaired Driving Coalition (FIDC)?
According to their website, the current and former members of the Florida Impaired Driving Coalition (FIDC) are employed by or associated with the following public and private organizations:
- Trial Court Judge
- Influential and non-governmental organizations including:
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
- Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD)
- Private companies that profit from DUI adjudications:
- DUI Counterattack, Hillsborough, Inc.
- SCRAM Systems
- Educational Institutions
- University of North Florida, Institute of Police Technology and Management
- University of Miami, Division of Toxicology
- Tallahassee Community College, Florida Public Safety Institute
- Florida Safety Council
- Florida Association of State Prosecutors
- State Attorney’s Offices, including:
- State Attorney’s Office 17th Judicial Circuit
- State Agencies including:
- Florida Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
- Florida Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation
- Florida Dept. of Transportation
- Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement, Alcohol Testing Program
- Organizations for Law Enforcement Officers
- Florida Sheriff’s Association
- International Association of Chiefs of Police
- Florida Police Chiefs Association
- Local Law Enforcement Agencies, including:
- Florida Highway Patrol
- Lake Alfred Police Department
- Miami Beach Police Department
- Orange County Sheriff’s Office
- Pasco County Sheriff’s Office
- Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
- Florida Department of Law Enforcement
- Seminole Tribe
Impaired Driving in Florida – Visit the website of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to learn more about the definition of impaired driving. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) State Safety Office (SSO) serves as the lead agency for impaired driving in the State. Find information on Florida’s Impaired Driving Program, impaired driving education campaigns, videos, and a picture of the 2016 Florida DUI Challenge Award Vehicle. The website also provides information on impaired driving grants awarded by FDOT and information on the Florida Impaired Driving Coalition (FIDC).
This article was last updated on Thursday, April 9, 2020.