DUI Defense Strategies
If you have been arrested for driving over the legal limit, you can raise a number of possible defenses, depending on the circumstances surrounding your case. Potential DUI defenses include the following:
- Reckless Driving Plea: In cases, where there is some evidence that you were DUI, a Tampa DUI defense attorney can demand or request that the prosecutor reduce the charge to a Reckless Driving. By pleading guilty to a Reckless Driving charge, you will not be convicted of any alcohol related driving charge and there will likely be no additional court ordered driver’s license suspension. On some occasions a Reckless Driving plea can be sealed from your record, thus allowing you to have your mugshot removed from the sheriff’s office website and giving you the ability to deny your DUI/Reckless Driving arrest to potential employers. Furthermore, with a Reckless Driving plea, you will likely not be subject to increased auto insurance rates as a result of your plea.
- Illegal Traffic Stops and Seizures: Often times, cops will state that they pulled someone over because their car was weaving within or just outside the lane markers or they believe the driver was impaired. Your Fourth Amendment protections prevent law enforcement from pulling you over without probable cause. A Tampa criminal defense attorney from our office can successfully challenge the cop’s basis for this type or any type of illegal stop by using video and/or expert testimony to refute the cop’s flawed observations of your driving. Moreover, once they have stopped your vehicle, cops cannot order you to submit to a breath/urine/blood test or to field sobriety tests without just cause to believe you are intoxicated or impaired. Pulling you over for a broken tail light, for example, does not give law enforcement officers the right to check your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) unless there was reason to believe you were intoxicated, such as slurred words or a strong scent of alcohol.
- Faulty field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests are exercises that law enforcement administers at the scene, such as asking you to walk heel-to-toe or to perform a One leg Stand. Field sobriety tests are notoriously unreliable and subjective. If you were not properly instructed on how to perform the tests or if the officer did not consider your age, weight, height, medical condition or physical disabilities when conducting the tests, then the evidence provided by the field sobriety tests can be considered faulty.
- Violation of your Miranda rights. If law enforcement did not provide you with information on your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney, anything you may have said cannot be used against you.
- Failure to inform you of implied consent laws. In Florida, you can lose your license for refusing to take a breath test because you are assumed to have given implied consent to testing by driving on Florida roadways. However, law enforcement is required to inform you of the implied consent laws for you to lose your license.
- A rising BAC at the time of your Breath Test. In order to be convicted of DUI, the prosecutor must prove that your Breath/Blood alcohol level was .08 or higher at the time you drove your car. Oftentimes, your blood alcohol content continues to rise even after you stop consuming alcohol. If you were not tested immediately upon being stopped but there was instead a gap in time, it is possible that you were not above the legal limit at the time you were driving your car. Our Tampa criminal defense law firm can hire an expert, such as a toxicologist, to challenge the breath evidence.
- Faulty breath tests. Many things can go wrong with breathalyzer tests. The test may not have been working properly, especially if it missed monthly or annual inspections. The test may have been affected by physiological factors or by the fact that you were chewing gum, had a breath mint in your mouth, or had recently burped, vomited or used mouth wash during or immediately before the test. Test results may also be incorrect if you do not blow hard enough into the machine. As experienced Hillsborough County DUI attorneys, we can challenge your breath test results and even hire an independent expert to testify on your behalf in court.
- Lack of evidence that you were operating the car. You must have actually been operating and in control of your motor vehicle to be guilty of a DUI. If you were sitting in the driver’s seat of your vehicle but not actually driving or operating your vehicle, you may be able to get your charges dismissed.
- Faulty drug tests. You can be charged with driving under the influence of drugs including illegal drugs and/or drugs that were legally prescribed by your Doctor, just as you can be charged with a DUI of alcohol. However, there is not a clear standard for determining when you are impaired by drugs. If the officers did not take a urine sample or perform a drug recognition exam, you may be able to avoid conviction for driving while impaired by drugs. In addition, if your urine sample showed marijuana in your system, the government will need to show that you were actually high at the time of driving since marijuana can stay in your system for up to 30 days. Prescription drugs can also remain in your system for a long period of time after you have taken the drugs, and they are of course legal to use. This means that if you are arrested for a DUI related to prescription drugs showing up in your system, you can make a solid argument that the presence of these drugs in your body does NOT mean that you were impaired or intoxicated at the time when you were driving.
- Blood Draw DUIs: If law enforcement gave you a blood test to determine your level of intoxication, you can raise a number of legal challenges to the admission of this blood test in court or to the veracity of the evidence that it provides. For example: Did law enforcement have a legal basis to draw your blood? Was there a death or was someone seriously hurt in a car accident? Was it impractical/impossible for the officers to administer a breath test at the time of your arrest? Law enforcement cannot take your blood without having reasonable cause to do so and if your constitutional rights were violated, a Tampa Bay DUI attorney at our firm can keep the evidence collected from the blood draw out of court.
- Residential and/or Outpatient Alcohol/Drug Treatment Defense: In some cases where the prosecutor’s evidence is strong, you may be able to enter into an alcohol and/or drug program such as the DACCO or Operation Par drug treatment programs as a substitute for any jail or prison time the prosecutor is seeking. At Stechschulte Nell, each Tampa DWI lawyers has successfully argued this in many cases where the facts were against our clients.
In addition to raising these and other DUI defenses, a Tampa DUI defense attorney can also help you negotiate a plea deal wherein you agree to plead guilty to reckless driving in exchange for lesser charges and penalties.
To learn more about your options when arrested for a DUI and for help building your defenses, contact Stechschulte Nell as soon as possible after your arrest.
We accept all forms of payment including cash, check, debit and credit cards and we can also provide a payment plan to clients.
Other DUI Facts and Information
Driving under the influence is not just a traffic infraction but is also a serious crime. Under Florida law, both the criminal court system and the DMV can impose sanctions and penalties if you are found to guilty of DUI. These penalties can include the suspension or loss of your driver’s license, incarceration, fines, DUI school, the installation of an ignition interlock device, community service, probation and a host of other consequences.
In Florida, you can be charged with a DUI crime if your blood alcohol content is at or above .08 or if you are driving while impaired by alcohol, drugs or other substances that affect your ability to drive safely. It is also a criminal act to refuse to take a blood alcohol content test when you are asked to do so by law enforcement when driving a vehicle in the state of Florida.
If you have been accused of driving while intoxicated, you need to consult an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible. A Tampa DUI defense attorney may be able to help you raise defenses to DUI or plead guilty to lesser charges so you can avoid some of the more serious consequences of a DUI conviction. We could also increase the chances you retain driving privileges.
Get Your License Back
At Stechschulte Nell, our Tampa criminal defense attorneys have successfully represented many clients facing DUI charges, including repeat offenders and those accused of DUI manslaughter. Contact us today to learn how we can put our legal experience to work for you.
Higher blood alcohol levels (.15% or more) can result in an enhanced DUI charge with stiffer penalties.
Tampa DUI Penalties
There are a variety of different penalties imposed for Tampa DUI crimes depending upon the nature of your offense. Some examples include the following:
- First Time DUI offense: You face probation and a 6 to 12 month driver’s license suspension.
- Second DUI Offense. You face a mandatory 10 day jail sentence if your previous DUI conviction occurred within 5 years of your most recent DUI arrest. You also face a five-year driver’s license suspension.
- Third DUI Offense. The prosecutor can upgrade your DUI charges to a 3rd degree felony. Unlike most 3rd degree Felony arrests, if you are convicted of this type of DUI you are not eligible for a Withhold of Adjudication. This means that you will be classified as a convicted felon and certain rights will be restricted such as your ability to vote and possess a firearm. As an experienced Tampa DUI attorney, Ben Stechschulte has successfully challenged the State’s evidence and had Felony DUI charges reduced to misdemeanors. In order to prove their case, the prosecutor must present certified documents and/or convictions of your prior DUI arrests/convictions. We can challenge this evidence and demand that your felony charges be reduced.
- DUI With a Serious Bodily Injury (SBI). If you are accused of causing someone to suffer serious injury as a result of an accident caused by driving intoxicated, the criminal charges you face are automatically upgraded to felony charges.
- DUI Manslaughter/Vehicular Homicide. DUI manslaughter is defined as causing the death of a human being or of a viable human fetus while you are operating a vehicle under the influence. Vehicular homicide is defined as killing a person or viable fetus while operating a motor vehicle in a reckless way likely to lead to death or great bodily harm. DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony and carries a mandatory minimum penalty of four years of prison time, with up to a total of 15 years of prison time possible. If you are charged with DUI manslaughter, your attorney may hire an accident reconstruction expert to help demonstrate that the accident was not your fault.
The Causation Defense
In DUI manslaughter and Serious Bodily Injury cases, one of the best defenses is an argument that you were not at fault in the accident. In the state of FL, even if you are impaired at the time of the death/accident, you cannot be held responsible for a death that you did not cause. Unless the prosecutor can show that you were drunk AND that your intoxication was a direct cause of death, you cannot be guilty of DUI manslaughter. This means that if the other driver was behaving irresponsibly or if outside factors caused the death, the simple fact that you were driving drunk does not automatically mean you are guilty of anything. If you are charged with DUI manslaughter, our Tampa criminal defense law firm can hire defense experts to challenge any evidence that you were at fault in the accident.
Special DUI Cases
Certain individuals are subject to special DUI rules. For example, a teenager under the age of 21 is subject to zero tolerance laws and can lose his or her driver’s license if he or she has a BAC of .02 or higher.
Commercial drivers are also held to a higher standard. Drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) can be found guilty of a commercial DUI for driving a motor vehicle with a BAC of .04 or higher, for otherwise driving while intoxicated, or for refusing to take a drug test or blood alcohol content test. A commercial driver who engages in any of these behaviors will lose his or her CDL for a year. In reality, a DUI offense on a commercial driver’s record will effectively end his career since few companies will hire or tolerate a driver with a history of drunk driving. A second CDL DUI arrest will also cause a lifetime CDL suspension.
Getting Help from a Tampa Bay DUI Attorney
DUI charges are serious and you should seek assistance from a Tampa DUI defense attorney as soon as possible if you have been arrested. Contact Stechschulte Nell today to explore your options, craft a defense and achieve the most favorable outcome possible.