||Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
Tampa DUI Lawyers
If you were arrested for Driving under the Influence (DUI), contact an experienced DUI Lawyer in Tampa, FL, at the Sammis Law Firm. We focus on DUI cases. Our attorneys can discuss the case with you today either over the phone or in the office. Find out what you need to do right now to protect your rights.
At the Sammis Law Firm we take a full-service approach to defending each aspect of the case including:
- the formal review hearing to protect your Florida driver's license from an administrative suspension;
- your first court date (called the "arraignment" in a DUI case);
- all pre-trial motion hearings which can include a motion to suppress and/or a motion to dismiss the charges;
- pre-trial negotiations with the prosecutor from the State Attorney's Office to resolve the case for lesser charges such as reckless driving; or
- a jury or bench trial to fight for a "not guilty" verdict.
Hiring an experienced attorney early in your case is crucial to protecting your privilege to drive and increasing your chances of avoiding a DUI conviction.
If you need to speak with an experienced attorney following your arrest for Driving Under the Influence ("DUI") in the Tampa Bay area, including: Tampa, Ybor City, Temple Terrace, and Plant City for Hillsorough County. We represent clients arrested at the Tampa International Airport, MacDill Air Force Base, the University of Tampa (UT) or the University of South Florida (USF).
You only have 10 calendar days after your DUI arrest to file a demand for a
Formal Review Administrative Hearing with the DMV to protect your driver's license.
Make sure that the attorney that you hire will aggressively fight the administrative suspension of your driver's license by demanding a formal review hearing, obtaining subpoenas for all relevant witnesses, and moving to invalidate the suspension. There is no downside to contesting the administrative suspension of your driver's license.
Your attorney can also help you obtain a 42 day driving permit that will allow you to drive while your attorney fights to invalidate the administrative suspension at the formal review hearing.
At the Sammis Law Firm, our attorneys and staff are experienced in helping our clients through every step of the process. In each case, we fight to invalidate the administrative suspension that occurs immediately after the arrest for DUI.
Fighting to Obtain the Best Result in Your Case
We created this website to provide you with general information. Just because you were arrested for DUI does not mean that you will be convicted of DUI. By learning as much as you can about possible defenses and possible outcomes you can make the most informed decision about how to fight the drunk driving charges.
After any drunk driving or DUI arrest in Florida, the following two different types of cases are pending against you:
First, you will answer the criminal misdemeanor charge of DUI under Florida Statute Section 316.193 in county court. The clerk of court will mail you notice of your first court date usually with 30 days of your arrest.
The first court date is called the arraignment. Certain motions must be filed before arraignment or you waive those avenues of attacking the charges. Your attorney can waive your appearance at many of these initial court dates saving you additional stress, aggravation and embarrassment while your attorney methodically fights each part of the case.
- The Civil Case with the DMV to Protect Your Driver's License.
In many DUI cases the arresting officer will take your driver's license and file the paperwork for the DHSMV to suspend your driving privilege based on a blow of 0.08 or higher or any refusal to take a chemical test. You should retain a DUI attorney to demand an administrative hearing within 10 days of your arrest.
Our attorneys also assist you in obtaining an additional 42 day driving permit, so you can continue driving while we fight this suspension that will otherwise occur if you do nothing. The formal review hearing usually takes place within 40 days after your DUI arrest. The administrative hearing will be one of the most important parts of fighting your DUI case. No down side exist to requesting a formal review hearing as explained in greater detail below.
Hiring a Tampa DUI attorney is an important decision. Contact us for more information about our training and experience in defending DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or drunk driving cases in Tampa, Hillsborough County, and the surrounding Pinellas County, Hernando County, Manatee County, Polk County and Pasco County, FL.
· What to Expect after a DUI Arrest in the Tampa Bay Area
· Motions to Suppress or Exclude Evidence in the Florida DUI Case
· DUI and Drug Recognition (DRE) Expert Testimony under Florida Law
· DUI Roadblock or Checkpoint in Tampa Bay
· 10 Day Rule and the Formal Review Hearing
· Over the Legal Limit - Breath Test Reading over 0.08%
· Refusal to Submit to DUI Breath Test under Florida Law
· Eligibility after DUI for Business Purpose Only License in Florida
· Legal Definition of DUI - Two Ways to Prove the Case in Florida
· Business Purposes Only Reinstatement after a Florida DUI
What to Expect after a DUI Arrest
After your arrest for DUI in Florida you will receive notification of your arraignment date and assignment to a particular judge in county court for a misdemeanor DUI, or circuit court for a felony DUI case. If you hire a DUI lawyer to represent you prior to the arraignment, your attorney will file a written plea of "not guilty."
Prior to arraignment, your attorney must also file a motion to attack the legal sufficiency of the charging document, as well as other motions including a demand for discovery. After arraignment, you will have several disposition court dates which allow both the defense attorney and the prosecutor to inform the judge about the status of the case, and whether the case is ready for trial.
In many cases, your attorney can excuse you from appearing for the disposition or status court dates. After the investigation has been completed your case will be scheduled for a pre-trial conference and trial. Although no one wants their DUI case to go to trial, these cases are usually resolved for the best possible outcome only after the attorneys has fought the case aggressively and shown the prosecutor that you are willing and able to go to trial to fight for a "not guilty" verdict.
Each court date is critical to your defense. An experience Tampa DUI attorney can fight to have your charges completely dropped, or for a negotiated resolution of your case to a reduced charge of reckless driving. Click here for more information on hiring an attorney for a DUI case in Hillsborough County, Florida. We also represent clients charged with DUI in all of the surrounding counties throughout the Tampa Bay area.
Fighting the DUI Case May Save You Money
Hiring an experienced DUI lawyer to fight your case may help you avoid a conviction which may save you thousands of dollars in fines, court costs, expenses for DUI school, vehicle impound, time and energy to complete 50 hours of community service and drastically increased insurance premiums. Avoiding a DUI conviction in Florida will also save you thousands of dollars each year for the next three (3) to five (5) years in increased car insurance premiums.
The most common way to avoid a DUI conviction occurs when the prosecutor agrees to amend the DUI charge to "reckless driving." If the officer's decision to stop the vehicle was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, then all evidence in the case could be excluded which could leads to all charges being dropped. Your attorney will discuss these options with you which depend almost entirely on the particular facts and circumstances of your case.
Our DUI attorneys represent professions charged with drunk driving in Florida, including college students, nurses, private and public school teachers, and members of law enforcement or the military. Even if you are not convicted of DUI, merely being arrested on the charge may also bring immediately consequences to your educational or career opportunities, especially if you have special certifications.
Florida FR-44 Automobile Insurance Form
Fighting the Florida DUI case is also important because in addition to the direct cost of a Florida DUI conviction, you will also suffer many collateral consequences included increased premiums for auto insurance. Florida requires any driver with a DUI conviction obtain a FR-44 Form from the automobile insurance carrier which prove that the driver has obtained increased policy liability coverage of 100/300/50.
Your insurance premiums may increase by as much as 200% - 300% for the next three to five years after a DUI conviction. Avoiding a conviction is important for this reason alone. Click here to learn more about the true cost of a DUI conviction and how to avoid it - Florida's FR-44 DUI Car Insurance Requirements.
Many insurance companies also charge higher premiums for life, medical and disability insurance to an individual with a Florida DUI conviction.
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Motion to Suppress or Exclude Evidence in Your DUI Case
One of the most effective ways to fight your Florida DUI case throughout the greater Tampa Bay area is to file and litigate motions to suppress or exclude certain evidence in your case, including:
- Showing that the initial stop of the vehicle was without reasonable suspension or probable cause under Florida law;
- Attacking procedures used by the police in performing a roadblock (or checkpoint stop) of your vehicle;
- Arguing that the officer made an arrest before sufficient probable cause existed to indicate that you were driving under the influence;
- Demonstrating that the law enforcement officer violated your rights by not advising you of your Miranda warnings;
- Attacking that the results of your breath test because of problems with the maintenance or calibration of the machine;
- Showing that the officer did not preserve evidence, including a video tape of your driving pattern, performance on the roadside tests, or alleged refusal;
- Showing the officer administered the roadside sobriety tests improperly;
- Showing that your implied consent warnings were not properly given, thereby making any mention of your alleged "refusal" inadmissible; or
- Using special defenses that may be available to you depending on the particular facts of the case including special defenses available to women charged with DUI.
By filing and litigating a motion to suppress or exclude your attorney can fight to dismantle the prosecutor's case one piece of evidence at a time. If any evidence is excluded then the prosecutor's chances for a successful prosecution can drop dramatically. By aggressively litigating motions to suppress and exclude evidence, we can often create the best opportunities for our clients to avoid a conviction.
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DUI and Drug Recognition (DRE) Expert Testimony
For many DUI cases, obtaining the best DUI expert witness can give you a distinct advantage during pre-trial motions, pre-trial negotiations with the prosecutor, and at trial. DUI expert witnesses can be hired to investigate and testify about flaws in the administration, maintenance or calibration of the breath test machine called the "Intoxilyzer 8000." Many of the expert witnesses that testify about the Intoxilyzer 8000 are former breath test technicians or law enforcement officers who have special training on instructing other officers on how to correctly administer the breath test.
After obtaining any videotaped evidence of your performance on the roadside sobriety exercises, your criminal defense attorney can use expert testimony from former law enforcement officers with special training in administering and scoring field sobriety exercises to attack the mistakes made by the often less experienced DUI arresting officer.
The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm use expert witnesses in many of our DUI cases. The cost of obtaining an expert to review your case so that the expert can be listed as a witness is very low. In many cases, just the fact that you have an expert willing to testify in your case may make it more likely that the prosecutor will offer to reduce the charges. If the case goes to trial, then the expert witness testimony is often crucial to obtaining a "not guilty" verdict.
The prosecutor will call an expert witness also - the arresting officer or breath test technician. By having your own DUI expert witness, who is often more qualified and experienced than the arresting officer or other state witness, you can put yourself in a position to obtain the best result possible.
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DUI Roadblock or DUI Checkpoint Cases
Law enforcement officers in Florida must normally have probable cause that a crime or traffic infraction has occurred before they can stop a vehicle. One of the few exceptions to this rule is when the officers stop a vehicle during a DUI roadblock or DUI checkpoint.
If you were arrested for a Florida DUI after being stopped in a roadblock or checkpoint, call our office to speak with a Tampa DUI attorney about filing a motion to suppress. If any of the strict requirements for the DUI roadblock were not followed by the arresting officers then your entire case could be dismissed even if you had an extraordinarily high breath test result.
The Florida Supreme Court has required that before a DUI roadblock is proper under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Florida law a set of highly detailed written guidelines must be established. Police officers in Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Polk County, Pasco County, Manatee County, Sumter County, Hernando County and Sarasota County often make mistakes in drafting or executing the DUI roadblock guidelines.
The field officers conducting the DUI roadblock must also follow strict procedures in determining which vehicles to stop. The field officers are typically not allowed to stop certain vehicles that look suspicious while letting other vehicles pass through. The written DUI guidelines must establish exactly how vehicles are to be selected and the procedures used after the stop occurs. For instance, the police may articulate in the plan that every third vehicle is to be stopped. By articulating such a rule for a Florida DUI roadblock, the officers are not able to deviate from that plan and stop vehicles that they deem "suspicious" while at the scene.
Under Florida law, if the State does not meet the burden of showing that the DUI operational plan sufficiently limited the ability of the field officers to select vehicle, or that the field officers did not follow the plan, and then all evidence of the DUI must be suppressed. That means the officers can not testify about the fact that your vehicle was stopped or use any evidence gathered after the stop. If the officers found drugs in the vehicle after the bad stop, all of the physical evidence is also thrown out.
After winning a DUI motion to suppress because of a bad stop in a DUI roadblock, the prosecutor is usually forced to drop the charges or the court may be required to dismiss the charge. Click here for more information on fighting a Florida DUI Roadblock or Checkpoint Case.
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Tampa / Hillsborough County DUI Administrative Suspension Hearing with the DMV
After a DUI arrest, the officer typically takes your Florida Driver's License and issues you a temporary driving permit. After your arrest you have only 10 days to request a formal review hearing to fight the administrative suspension of your driver's license.Contact our firm today, and we can prepare all of the necessary paperwork to schedule the administrative hearing, and then subpoena or compel the appearance of all of the law enforcement officers involved in your arrest. The suspension of your driver license can only be avoided by winning the administrative hearing.
Additionally, by conducting a thorough investigation of your case prior to your administrative hearing, we are able to question the officer that conducted the stop of your vehicle and the arresting officer under oath. The testimony from the administrative hearing can them be used to "impeach" the officers at trial or a motion hearing if their testimony in court differs from their testimony at the administrative hearing.
Additionally, a transcript of the testimony can be provided to the prosecutor to demonstrate weaknesses in the case so that the best pre-trial negotiations can be achieved. Click here for more information on protecting your Florida driver license after a DUI arrest during a DUI Administrative Review Hearing.
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High Blow Over .08%
Florida law provides that if you blew over the legal limit of .08%, and fail to request an administrative hearing, then your driver's license will be suspended for a period of six (6) months for a first offense or one year for any subsequent offense. During that six month period for a first DUI, you will have a thirty (30) day "hard suspension," which means that you cannot drive for any reason, even to and from work.
After the "hard suspension" period has been completed, you can apply for a "business purposes only (BPO)" or hardship driver's license which may allow you to drive under certain circumstances, including to and from work.
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Refusal to Submit to Breath Test - BAC Refusal
The Good News About a Florida DUI Refusal to Submit to Testing Case:
When the State of Florida attempts to prosecute a Driving Under the Influence ("DUI") case, the strongest evidence is usually the results of a chemical test, including a breath test, blood test, or urine test showing that the driver was intoxicated with alcohol, prescription drugs, or a controlled substance. If the driver refuses the submit to a chemical test (called a DUI Refusal BAC in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL), then the State no longer has that evidence.
Instead, the prosecutor will them attempt to admit evidence that the driver "refused" to submit to the test and other circumstantial evidence. The prosecutor will argue that this refusal demonstrates a "guilty conscience" or the driver's belief that if he submitted to the chemical test, the test results would show that he was intoxicated from alcohol or impaired by prescription drugs or other controlled substances.
In determining whether to admit or exclude the evidence that the driver refused to submit to the test the Court will consider Florida constitutional provisions, Florida rules of evidence, Florida's common law provisions, and Florida statutory rules. Furthermore, if the law enforcement officer violates a driver's constitutional or statutory rights to an attorney before the blood, breath or urine test, then the Court can exclude or throw out any evidence that the defendant declined to take the chemical test.
Most Florida DUI refusal cases are difficult for the prosecutor to take to trial because the prosecutor's most important piece of evidence, the test result, does not exist. If you have been charged with DUI in Hillsborough County (or a surrounding county in Florida) talk with an experienced DUI attorney before you decide how to proceed with your case. A Tampa DUI attorney may be able to get the prosecutor to reduce your charges to reckless driving.
The Bad News About a Florida DUI Refusal to Submit to Testing Case:
The consequences to your driver license are even more drastic when it is alleged that you refused to submit to a chemical test. If you refused to take the chemical test after being advised of the Florida "implied consent warnings" then your Florida driver's license may be suspended for 12 months or a year and a half (18 months) if your driver's license has previously been suspended for refusing to submit to chemical testing.
During that one year period, you will have a ninety (90) day "hard suspension," which means that you cannot drive for any reason, even to and from work. After the Florida "hard suspension" period has been completed, you can apply for a Florida "business purposes only" or hardship driver's license which may allow you to drive under certain circumstances, including to and from work.
A Second Refusal Can Also Be Charged as a Separate Criminal Offense:
If you have previously had your Florida driver license suspended for refusing to submit to a chemical test, then the consequences for a second or subsequent refusal will probably be an additional criminal charge for a first degree misdemeanor. In July of 2002, the Florida Legislature criminalized a second refusal to a breath, blood or urine test.
If you refuse to take a breath test a second time you may find yourself charged with two separate offenses, DUI and a "second refusal to submit" charge. Even if you win the DUI case, you could still be convicted of the refusal charge. The constitutionality and limitations of this new criminal offense for a "second refusal to submit" has not been fully addressed by the appellate courts.
Defenses exist to fight this separate charge of refusing to submit to a chemical test for a second time. Contact the attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss defenses that may be available under Florida law for the particular facts and circumstances in your DUI case.
I thought I was entitled to remain silent and not be required to incriminate myself? If so, then why would the jury be told that I refused to take the roadside exercises or the breath, blood, or urine test?
Whether the fact that you refused to perform a roadside exercise or submit to a chemical test depends on the particular facts and circumstances of your case. Florida criminal law provides generally that when a DUI officer has sufficient legal clause to believe that a driver has committed the criminal act of driving under the influence ("DUI"), the DUI officer can ask the driver to participate in roadside agility exercise or a blood, breath or urine test.
The fact that the driver refused does not usually elicit a Fifth Amendment violation of the privilege against self-incrimination because the refusal is relevant to the driver's consciousness of guilt. Therefore, if the driver declines to take the test, the prosecutor can usually introduce this evidence. Furthermore, the prosecutor can argue that the refusal shows that the defendant knew that if he submitted to the chemical test, then the test results would show that the driver had drugs or alcohol in his system.
However, when making this argument the prosecutor cannot reference the driver's failure to voluntarily provide evidence to disprove an element of the crime of DUI because making that argument would erroneously cause the jury to think that the driver had the burden of producing evidence. See Jackson v. State, 575 So.2d 181, 188 (Fla. 1991); Concha v. State, 972 So.2d 996 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008).
A thin line exists between arguing in Florida DUI cases that the refusal to submit to a breath test shows consciousness of guilt and arguing that the defendant failed to prove proof that he is innocent. In a recent Florida case, Morris v. State, 988 So.2d 120 (Fla. 5th DCA 2008), the prosecution crossed that line in a DUI case by arguing that an innocent person would speak up and protest his innocence.
The prosecutor also improperly shifted the burden of proof by arguing that an innocent person would volunteer to take a breath test to prove his or her innocence. The prosecutor was essentially arguing to the jury that the jury should infer guilt of the DUI charge from the fact that the driver did not speak up or take other pro-action actions to show his innocence.
The Court found these comments by the prosecutor "patently impermissible." The defendant's DUI conviction in Morris v. State was reversed because of the prosecutor's improper comments. An experienced DUI attorney needs to be constantly on guard against any attempt by the prosecutor to cross this line. And in those cases in which the prosecutor does cross the line, the DUI attorney needs to be prepared to preserve objections for appeal so that the DUI conviction can be reversed on appeal if the trial court refuses to stop the prosecutor from making such improper arguments in any DUI case.
Click here for more information on the DUI Refusal to Submit to Testing Cases.
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Eligibility for Business Purpose Only or Hardship License
If you have two prior convictions for DUI, then you will not be eligible for a "business purpose only" or hardship license. The driving permit is restricted to business purposes only, which means the privilege to drive it limited to any driving necessary to "maintain livelihood" including driving to or from work, school (or other educational purposes), necessary on-the-job driving, driving for see a doctor (medical purposes), or driving for church.
No other type of driving for any other purpose is allowed with a business purpose only driver's license issued in Florida. If you are otherwise eligible, you must contact the DHSMV's Administrative Reviews Office for an appointment. At the appointment, you must provide proof of enrollment in DUI School, a recent copy of your driver's license, and proof of liability insurance.
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Legal Definition of DUI- Two Alternative Ways the Case Can be Proven
In Florida, there are two different theories that the prosecutor can use to attempt to prove that you are guilty of DUI. First, the prosecutor can attempt to show that you were under the influence of alcohol or an intoxicating substance to the extent that your normal faculties were impaired due to alcohol intoxication or drug impairment. Second, the prosecutor can attempt to show that your performance on a chemical test, such as a breath or blood test showed a blood alcohol level of .08% or above. Regardless of the theory under which your case is prosecuted, the penalties for DUI are generally the same.
If you have been arrested for drunk driving ("DUI"), including felony DUI, refusal DUI, or high blow over .08 DUI cases, call to speak with an experienced Tampa DUI attorney. At the Sammis Law Firm, we represent clients charged with DUI in Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Polk County, and Pasco County. If you need an experienced Tampa DUI lawyer to defend you, contact us today for a free evaluation of your Florida DUI case.
Florida DUI Resources
Florida DUI Penalties and Punishments - If you have been arrested for drunk driving in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, find out more about the DUI statutory minimum mandatory punishments that may apply if you are convicted. The penalties and punishments that could apply depending on the way that your particular case is charged. The penalties depend both on the number of prior convictions, the date of those convictions, and whether any property was damaged or whether anyone suffered any personal injury.
Florida DHSMV - DUI and Administrative Suspension Information - Information from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FDHSMV) concerning the DUI administrative suspension rules following a DUI arrest in Florida.
DUI Lawyer in Tampa - More information from another DUI lawyer in Tampa, FL, including DUI news, DUI forms, and breath test information which can help you through the process.
MADD Florida - The stated mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Florida is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking. The MADD website contains recent information about DUI statistics, and DUI stories and DUI laws throughout the country.
DUI in Pasco County, FL - If you have been arrested for DUI in New Port Richey or Dade City, Florida, find out more about how DUI cases are prosecuted in Pasco County, Florida.
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The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm are focused on fighting DUI cases in Hillsborough County, FL, and the surrounding areas. We work hard to stay ahead of recent changes in the law that impact DUI cases. Call us to discuss the particular facts of your case.
Our criminal defense attorneys can help. We welcome your calls to discuss the circumstances surrounding your arrest for DUI.