Call us to schedule a time to talk with the attorneys in the office or over the phone.
Office: 813.250.0500 Fax: 813.276.1600
After an arrest for Driving under the Influence (DUI) in Tampa, FL, call us to discuss the best strategies for fighting the case. For the last ten years, our offices have been at the same location in downtown Tampa just a few blocks from the courthouse. Our second office is located in New Port Richey in Pasco County, FL.
The four attorneys at Sammis Law Firm focus exclusively on criminal defense with an emphasis on fight charges for driving under the influence.
One of the attorneys is "on call" after hours and on weekends to answer your questions. We make it easy to schedule a phone or office consultation so you can speak directly with an attorney during a free and confidential meeting to discuss the case.
Click here to read more about our Recent Case Results in DUI Cases.
We are in court each week fighting DUI cases. We also appear several times a week at the Bureau of Administrative Reviews (BAR) office of the DHSMV in Tampa and Clearwater to challenge the administrative suspension of a driver's license. Most of our cases involve a breath test reading or a refusal to submit to breath testing.
For a first DUI, we can explain the requirements of the new DUI Diversion Program in Hillsborough County called RIDR. The new diversion program might result in your first DUI being reduced to reckless driving with a withhold of adjudication. The withhold of adjudication might mean that you can seal the record after the termination of probation.
Keep in mind that even if you qualify for the diversion program called RIDR, you only have ten (10) days to contest the administrative suspension of your driver's license. If you do not get the suspension invalidated, then that notation will remain on your driving record for the next seventy-five (75) years.
Especially for a first DUI, it is critical that you challenge the administrative suspension by demanding a formal review hearing within ten (10) days of the arrest. Find out what you need to do right now to protect your rights as you fight for the best result in your case. Contact us today to discuss your case over the phone or in the office.
Call 813-250-0500 today.
Hiring an experienced attorney early in your case is crucial to protecting your privilege to drive and increasing your chances of avoiding a conviction. At the Sammis Law Firm, our attorneys take a full-service approach to defending each aspect of the case including:
We represent men and women arrested for driving under the influence in the Tampa Bay area, including Tampa, Ybor City, Temple Terrace, and Plant City, in Hillsborough County.
Our DUI defense attorneys also fight drunk driving cases after an arrest at the Tampa International Airport, MacDill Air Force Base, the University of Tampa (UT), or the University of South Florida (USF).
Leslie Sammis has focused her career on DUI cases. She is a member of the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD) and the DUI Defense Lawyers Association (DUIDLA), the most trusted organizations for the top DUI lawyers in the United States. As a member of these organizations, she attends legal seminars at the local, state and national level on drunk driving defense.
Leslie Sammis received advanced training on the Intoxilyzer 8000 from a former Department Inspector with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The Intoxilyzer 8000 is the only breathalyzer currently used in Florida. If your DUI case involves a breath test reading over .08, then you need an attorney focused on fighting these types of charges.
Over the last eighteen years, Leslie Sammis has taken numerous DUI cases to trial and obtained "not guilty" verdicts in both felony and misdemeanor DUI cases. She has argued hundreds of contested formal review hearings and cross-examined officers, breath test operators, agency inspectors, and department inspectors. She has also successfully litigated numerous motions to suppress and motions to dismiss in drunk driving cases.
All of the attorneys at Sammis Law Firm are experienced in conducting formal review hearings and jury trials in DUI cases. Let us put that experience to work for you at every stage of the case.
The vast majority of DUI cases in Florida are filed as a misdemeanor. The penalties for a DUI conviction become enhanced if any of the following aggravating factors can be proven beyond all reasonable doubt:
A DUI cannot be filed as a felony unless:
For a DUI and BUI charge under § 316.193(9) and 327.35(8), Fla. Stat., the defendant is not permitted to bond out of jail until:
Although a first DUI is a misdemeanor, a conviction comes with minimum mandatory penalties that are typically more severe than most third-degree felonies. The trials tend to be more complicated than many second-degree felony charges because of the nature of the scientific evidence including field sobriety testing and chemical testing of the breath, blood or urine.
Additionally, DUI cases are subject to extreme jury prejudice due to "media blitz" publicity and the pressures from citizen action groups such as Mother's Against Drunk Driving (MADD). DUI trials are complicated because many of the prospective jurors are nondrinkers, reformed alcoholics, or have religious reasons not to drink alcohol.
Under Rule 6.290 of the Florida Rules of Traffic Court and section 316.656, Florida Statutes, no court shall suspend, defer, or withhold adjudication of guilt or the imposition of sentence for the offense of driving or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle (DUI) while:
Since the court cannot withhold adjudication, the person convicted of DUI can never seal the criminal record.
For all of these reasons, you need a local DUI defense attorney focused on fighting these unique types of cases. Call us for a free consultation so that you can find out more about our unique qualifications for DUI defense in Tampa, FL.
The first stage in a DUI case is protecting your privileges to drive. After the arrest, the officer will take your driver's license and issue you a notice of suspension if:
Your DUI citation operates as the notice of suspension. The officer will send the notice to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle (DMV). The citation itself operates as a 10-day permit so you can continue to drive during the first ten (10) days after your arrest.
During that ten (10) day period after the arrest, you must decide between the following options:
Call us to find out why we ALWAYS recommend demanding the formal review hearing within that ten (10) day period. Because you must decide how to protect your driving privileges and take action quickly, it is essential to retain a criminal defense attorney during this ten (10) day period after your arrest.
The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, believe it is important to demand the formal review hearing and fight to invalidate the DUI administrative suspension.
In many ways, the formal review hearing is the most important part of the case. The evidence gathered during that hearing can often be used to your advantage in the criminal case.
Our attorneys attend every formal review hearing at the Bureau of Administrative Review (BAR) Office. The Tampa Bureau of Administrative Review Office is located at 2814 East Hillsborough Avenue, Tampa, FL 33610.
Although the hearing officer will tape record the hearing, we also bring a court reporter to the hearing who prepares the official record. We obtain a subpoena for every witness listed in the documents unless we have a good reason not to subpoena the witness.
We thoroughly review everything in the DMV's packet, the discovery from the State Attorney's Office and any video evidence before the hearing.
Florida law requires that the hearing officer SHALL invalidate the suspension if the arresting officer or the breath test operator fails to appear.
Other reasons to invalidate the suspension might include:
Even if all the witnesses appear at the hearing, other important objections can be raised including the lack of competent and substantial evidence as to one of the required issues in the case.
If you win the hearing, then your administrative suspension will be invalidated (vacated or set aside). Having the suspension invalidated means the administrative suspension is removed from your driving record as if it never happened.
If you win the hearing, we will give you a copy of the order. If you take the order to the DMV then you can obtain a duplicate copy of your driver's license. If the hearing officer refuses to invalidate the suspension that decision can be appealed to a Circuit Court judge through a petition for a "writ of certiorari."
The only downside to contesting the administrative suspension is that if you are not successful, then a hard suspension will start. During that time you cannot drive for any reason.
At the end of the hard suspension, as long as you have enrolled in DUI school and are otherwise eligible, you can obtain a "Business Purpose Only" license for the rest of the suspension period so that you can drive to and from work, school, and church.
Even in cases in which the suspension is not invalidated, the client still wins because important evidence and testimony were gathered that might lead to a better result in the criminal case. Call a DUI defense attorney in Tampa, FL, to learn more about fighting the administrative suspension.
The length of the administrative suspension are listed below. The "hard period" is the time period during which you are not eligible for a hardship license.
First DUI Offense
- 6 months (30 day hard period) if you took the chemical test; or
- 12 months (90 day hard period) if you refused.
Second DUI Offense
- 12 months (30 day hard period) if you took the chemical test;
- 12 months (90 day hard period) if you refused with no prior refusal; or
- 18 months (18 month hard period) if you refused with a prior refusal.
Third or Subsequent DUI Offense
- 12 months (12 month hard period) if you took the chemical test;
- 12 months (12 month hard period) if you refused with no prior refusal; or
- 18 months (18 month hard period) if you refused with a prior refusal.
After your arrest, the clerk's office will schedule your first court date called the "arraignment" in front of the judge. For individuals that do not have an attorney, the court will read the charges and ask the person to enter a plea - either guilty, no contest or not guilty.
If the individual enters a guilty or no contest plea, then the court will adjudicate the person guilty of DUI and impose a sentence which could include jail time and probation.
A guilty plea is essentially the same as a "no contest" plea. A conviction results in either case and you can never seal or expunge that mug shot, arrest record, or court record of the conviction. Entering a plea at arraignment is a bad idea because you cannot obtain a hardship license until after you have completed DUI school.
If you cannot afford a private attorney, then you should request the services of a public defender. You can say, "I'd like to enter a plea of "NOT GUILTY" and have an attorney help me with my case." Trying to resolve your case without a criminal defense attorney is not a good idea. Before entering a plea, at a minimum, you should review all of the police reports and watch the video at the roadside or at the police station.
You should always talk with a DUI lawyer about the evidence in your case before considering a plea to the charges. Many of these cases are reduced to less serious charges such as reckless driving. Your criminal defense attorney can always fight for a one or two level (or more) reduction depending on the facts of the case.
Each level the charges are reduced can save you thousands of dollars and indirect consequences that would otherwise occur.
By entering the plea as charged without any reduction, you may be taking the most disruptive, expensive, and prolonged route to resolving your case.
If you retain a private attorney, the attorney will waive your appearance at arraignment and enter a not guilty plea on your behalf. The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm also file motions to do the following:
After the arraignment, another court date will be scheduled each month after that (called the "disposition"). In most cases, your attorney can waive your appearance at these court dates. During these initial court dates, your attorney will secure a copy of all evidence in your case. Your attorney may also file additional motions to suppress or exclude that evidence.
After the investigation is complete and all information has been provided by the prosecutor with the Assistant State Attorney, then the case will be scheduled for motion hearings, a pre-trial conference, trial. Your appearance is required at these court dates.
Hiring an experienced 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 might also save you thousands of dollars each year for the next three (3) to five (5) years in increased car insurance premiums. After a DUI conviction, you are required to obtain a high-risk and more expensive form of insurance called "FR-44" insurance.
The most common way to avoid a DUI conviction occurs when the prosecutor agrees to amend the 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 lead to all charges being dropped.
Our 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 immediate consequences to your educational or career opportunities, especially if you have certain types of certification or licenses.
In other counties, such as Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach County, the State Attorney's Office has pre-trial intervention programs to resolve a first DUI case. This type of DUI diversion program is now available for cases in Tampa or Hillsborough County.
The statute provides for two different theories that the prosecutor might use in an attempt to prove that you are guilty. 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.
Alternatively, 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 potential penalties are the same.
Certain enhanced penalties apply if the prosecutor proves that your breath test reading was over .15 including the dreaded ignition interlock device and a higher fine. The charges are also more serious if you are charged with DUI with property damage or while a minor child was in the vehicle.
If you have been arrested for drunk driving ("DUI"), including a breath test, urine test or blood test case, a refusal case, or crash with property damage, then call us to discuss the case today.
When the State of Florida attempts to prosecute a Driving Under the Influence 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 to 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.
Learn more about how an attorney fights a DUI refusal case in Tampa, FL.
In determining whether to admit or exclude the evidence that the driver refused to submit to the test the Court will consider state and federal constitutional provisions, the rules of evidence, common law provisions, statutory rules, and administrative 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.
Many 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 refusal in or around Hillsborough County, then talk with an experienced attorney before you decide how to proceed with your case.
If you have previously had your 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 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 to DUI testing" 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" have not been fully addressed by the appellate courts.
Defenses exist to fight this separate charge of refusing to submit to a chemical test for the 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 of your case.
If you have a constitutional right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, 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 declined 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 that when a law enforcement officer has sufficient legal cause to believe that a driver has committed the criminal act of driving under the influence, then the officer can ask the driver to participate in roadside agility exercise or 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 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 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 by arguing that an innocent person would speak up and protest his innocence.
In that case, the prosecutor also attempted to improperly shift 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 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 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.
In those cases in which the prosecutor does cross the line, the criminal defense attorney needs to be prepared to preserve objections for appeal. The appeal could result in the DUI conviction being reversed if the trial court refused to stop the prosecutor from making such improper arguments.
Did you know that the offense of Driving While Intoxicated was abolished by statute in Florida? Thereafter, the Florida Traffic Court Rule 6.110 was amended in 1990 to delete any reference to DWI. In an amendment in 1998, Rule 6.110 was changed to bring subdivision (a) into conformity with the statutory language in section 322.282, Florida Statute, which states "substance abuse education course" rather than a "DWI Counter Attack School."
Over the years, the Florida legislature has considered proposed legislation to reintroduce DWI cases into Florida law. Read more about a recently proposed DWI statute.
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 statistics, stories, and laws throughout the country for drunk and drugged driving.
Florida DHSMV - Administrative Suspension Information from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) concerning the administrative suspension rules following a DUI in Florida.
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 statutory minimum mandatory punishments that may apply if you are convicted. The consequences that apply depending on the way the case is charged. Charges can be enhanced based on the number of prior convictions, the date of those convictions, and whether any property was damaged or whether anyone suffered any personal injury.
DUI School Level I Counterattack in Tampa, Hillsborough County - Visit the website for DUI Counterattack, Hillsborough Inc. Founded in 1971, Tampa's DUI school provides alcohol and drug abuse educational courses to people accused of driving under the influence after an administrative suspension or criminal conviction. In order to enroll in the school, you must live, work or attend school in Hillsborough County. The DUI school also provides a face to face evaluation to determine whether follow up treatment and counseling will be required or recommended. The registration fee to enroll in level I DUI school for a first-time offense is $273.00.
This article was last updated by Leslie M. Sammis on Friday, September 21, 2018.
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Office: 813.250.0500 Fax: 813.276.1600
Sammis Law Firm 1005 N. Marion St. Tampa, FL 33602
Meet Our Attorneys
Jason D. SammisTampa native with 15 years experience. University of Florida College of Law Graduate...Read more
Leslie M. SammisFocused on DUI Defense for more than 15 years. Former Assistant Public Defender...Read more
Matthew A. MenendezAs a former assistant public defender, Matthew is experienced in trial advocacy and motion...Read more
Amanda BrunsonWith over 25 jury trials and 40 bench trials, Amanda is experienced in...Read more
Meet the Staff
Jennifer PondAs a paralegal, Jennifer assists the attorneys with the initial intake, filing motions...Read more
Danielle WynimkoAs a Florida Registered Paralegal, Danielle has fulfilled the requirements set forth by...Read more
Tara ColeWith more than fourteen years experience as a paralegal / legal assistant, Tara Cole is...Read more