In 2021, just under 800 Floridians were killed in DUI-related accidents. This is why police are intent on making DUI arrests and prosecutors are under pressure to get DUI convictions.
Getting stopped and arrested for DUI in Florida will cause an average person to become extremely anxious about what will happen next.
Will you go to jail?
Will I lose your license?
Are you going to lose your job?
Will your family and friends think less of me?
But as soon as you can calm your mind, the most important action you should take is to call an experienced DUI defense lawyer near you. If you are anywhere in Hillsborough or Pinellas County, in Tampa or St. Pete, you can get a Board-Certified criminal defense lawyer by calling Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law.
Contesting a Florida DUI — Experience Counts
When you are arrested for DUI in Florida, your driver’s license will remain valid for ONLY 10 DAYS, unless you file a request for an administrative hearing at the DMV.
Your lawyer can help you with this process and then appear with you at the hearing to challenge the legality of the traffic stop and other prosecution evidence.
When an experienced DUI defense lawyer defends someone facing a DUI charge, they immediately analyze the facts of the case to see whether the police conduct complied with the law. This expert analysis is the heart of an effective DUI defense.
Only lawyers who possess a comprehensive understanding of the law governing DUI cases can perform a deep examination of your facts and then identify the legal approach most likely to defeat the prosecution or damage it enough to get the charge reduced to a lesser offense.
DUI Stops Must Comply with the Law
Police are not legally permitted to pull a driver over unless they have at least a reasonable articulable suspicion that a traffic infraction or a crime is occurring.
Why did the officer pull you over? The officer must provide the facts that motivated the traffic stop. Without insisting that the officer state a clear reason for stopping a car, there would be no protection from police illegally stopping drivers based on their race, gender, or other prohibited grounds.
To arrest a driver for DUI, the police must have a higher degree of certainty based on facts that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Police need probable cause to pull you over for a DUI.
Probable Cause — Probable cause to arrest requires enough evidence that a reasonable person would believe a crime was probably committed under all the accompanying circumstances.
So, how do police obtain probable cause in a DUI case? With field sobriety tests.
The Significance of Field Sobriety Tests (You Are Not Required to Do Field Sobriety Tests)
Field sobriety tests are extremely important parts of the prosecution’s evidence in a DUI case.
Criminal law does not allow a police officer’s opinion alone to be the evidence convicting a driver of a DUI. A police officer’s interaction with a driver can let them smell alcohol, hear slurred speech, and notice if the driver is not responding to questions. But still, the law wants more evidence that alcohol or drugs are causing that behavior.
To provide more objective evidence of a person’s sobriety or lack of sobriety, scientists worked for years to study the effects of alcohol on human behavior, balance, eye dilation, and their ability to pay attention. The result was a group of physical tests police can administer on the side of the road to gather “scientific” evidence of a person’s intoxication. They are called Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST).
The SFSTs were designed to detect when a driver who performs the tests has a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .10 or more. That was the legal limit at the time the test was developed. Now, the legal limit across the nation is .08, 20% lower.
Learn More > Challenging Field Sobriety Tests
Florida law does NOT require drivers
to consent to or perform any field sobriety tests.
The fact that many drivers do agree to perform the SFSTs results from people thinking they have to. They don’t. The field sobriety tests have one purpose: to gather evidence for the police to have probable cause to arrest the driver for DUI.
Defending Against Failed Field Sobriety Tests — If a skilled DUI defense lawyer successfully exposes certain errors by police during their administering the field sobriety test, the probable cause to arrest a DUI suspect could evaporate. In those cases, the charge could be dismissed, or a prosecutor will agree to reduce the charge to a less serious offense that will not follow the driver throughout their life.
So many people take the field sobriety tests even though they are not required to that experienced DUI defense lawyers are skilled at exposing substantial errors in the police officer’s procedure while administering the SFSTs to a driver.
And now that bodycams are commonly worn by all uniformed officers, the video records police mistakes in instructing a driver how to perform the test. It also shows the weather or ground surface being inappropriate, the driver having on high heels. The video can also record a driver who performed more successfully than the officer scored on their score sheet.
Many cases also involve drivers with physical disabilities, illnesses, or other impairments that prevent them from successfully completing field sobriety tests.
Defending Against Breathalyzer Results
Blowing a high breathalyzer result is not a guaranteed conviction in a DUI case. Experienced DUI defense attorneys know precisely how to attack a breathalyzer reading. The procedure before the breathalyzer is very specific and must be followed by the officer. The machine must be properly calibrated and certified. The breathalyzer operator must be certified. And the driver must be properly instructed on how to blow and for how long to get a deep-lung breath sample.
Learn More > Under Arrest for a DUI? Keep Cool!
Skillfully Defending DUI Charges Takes Years to Acquire Legal Expertise
Only after years of representing drivers and previously prosecuting DUI cases did the best DUI defense lawyers acquire their skills. DUI is different than most other criminal charges. The science and special tactics great DUI defense lawyer use to defeat prosecutors is not learned overnight.
If you have been charged with a DUI, call Tampa’s experienced DUI defense law firm, Stechschulte Nell, for a free case review asap.