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Driver faces criminal DUI charges in Weeki Wachee bus crash

by is reporting that last Tuesday’s Weeki Wachee crash that involved a head-on collision between a car and a school bus may result in a DUI charge.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Michelle R. Sutton of Spring Hill was allegedly driving a Toyota coupe at a high rate of speed– weaving in and out of the westbound lane of County Road 550 — before ultimately colliding head first into the school bus. The bus was carrying about 30 students from Spring Hill’s Westside Elementary at the time of the crash. Sutton was seriously injured in the DUI crash and was taken to Oak Hill Hospital where an ER nurse allegedly found a plastic bag containing about 18 grams of marijuana in Ms. Sutton’s shorts pocket.

Because she was being admitted to the hospital, the deputy gave Ms. Sutton a citation and notice to appear in court next month for possession of marijuana instead of arresting her–but the Hernando County State Attorney’s Office has 90 days to file a misdemeanor DUI or 180 days to file a felony DUI with Serious Bodily Injury case, if they choose.

This presents an interesting issue from a constitutional law perspective. Since a nurse–and not law enforcement–found the marijuana on Ms. Sutton, she does not have the same constitutional protections from unlawful searches and seizures as she would if the police had found it at the scene of the accident. Generally under Florida law, the trigger for a constitutional law violation that can result in evidence being suppressed is that some government entity was involved in the seizure. In this case, Ms. Sutton told the nurse she was wearing her boyfriend’s shorts and didn’t know about the drugs in the pocket. Regardless, to sustain a conviction, the burden will still be on the State to prove that Ms. Sutton was under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol to the extent that her normal faculties were impaired.

The attorneys at Whittel & Melton, LLC understand the intricacies of constitutional law as it relates to DUI cases and have successfully argued for the suppression of evidence in many criminal matters ranging from DUI to burglary to drug possession. If you have been arrested, don’t face the judge alone. Call us at 866-608-5529 or contact us to schedule a consultation.

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