Building an Effective DUI Defense

When you are charged with DUI in Florida, the most important step you can take to protect yourself from an avoidable conviction is to contact an experienced Board-Certified criminal defense lawyer who concentrates on DUI defense. DUI law is unlike most other criminal offenses because it involves evidence that crosses over into technical and scientific principles.  


In this blog post, we’ll explain how the most effective DUI defenses are constructed by lawyers who know where the prosecution’s vulnerabilities are and what prosecution evidence is most likely to be flawed. At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, we have successfully defended hundreds of DUI defendants in the Tampa – St. Petersburg area. With years of skilled DUI defense experience, we build the most effective DUI defense the evidence in your case presents. 



The DUI Prosecutor’s Burden of Proof 


As with every crime, the state prosecutor has the burden of proving every “element” of the crime charged by evidence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt. An element of a crime is a factual component that must always be proved. If even one such component is not proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant must be acquitted. 


Under the Florida criminal code § 316.193, a person can only be convicted of DUI if the prosecution proves the following “elements” beyond a reasonable  doubt: 


The defendant drove or was in actual physical control of a vehicle, and 

The defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or another chemical substance listed in F.S. 877.111 

when affected to the extent that their normal faculties were impaired, 


The defendant’s breath or blood alcohol content (BAC) measured 0.08 or higher. 


Successfully defending against a prosecution’s attempts to convict a defendant of DUI requires that the proof of at least one of these elements falls short of the state’s burden. That means a DUI defense lawyer must raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of the fact finder on one or more of these facts. 


The Importance of Criminal Procedure and the Rules of Evidence 


Proving the facts necessary to convict a DUI defendant may seem simple. All the prosecution must do is show that the defendant was driving and that their breath sample contained an alcohol level of 0.08 or higher, right? 


No. It’s not that simple. 


Florida’s criminal courts operate on a complex set of rules that developed over the last few centuries, both in the United States and in old England. Criminal defense lawyers who focus their practice on DUI defense are masters of these rules that govern how evidence must be collected, preserved, held in custody, authenticated, and presented in court.  


The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Florida Evidence Code, and the Florida and U.S. Constitutions dictate which pieces of evidence are allowed to be used against a defendant in a DUI prosecution. 


Your Florida DUI defense attorney must be able to use these legal tools with surgical precision, a talent that is perfected only after years of courtroom experience. The DUI defense team at Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa can deliver that level of skill in your DUI case. 


Building Blocks of an Effective DUI Defense in Florida 


Defending a driver who is accused of DUI is a process that begins with a thorough analysis of the minute-by-minute events that occurred when the police officer first approached the driver. We deconstruct the stream of facts and look at each event separately. In this manner, we identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and prepare to spotlight procedural failures and illegal police conduct that can lead to the dismissal or reduction of the DUI charge.  


The Traffic Stop Did the officer have “reasonable articulable suspicion” of illegal activity before they initiated the traffic stop? If the officer cannot state a legal reason for stopping the driver’s vehicle, the case will be dismissed. 


The Person-to-Person Interaction — The officer’s interaction with the driver must include some feature that supports the officer’s asking the driver to perform field sobriety tests. The officer can report the driver’s slurred speech, confusion, unresponsive answers, or “fumbling” for documents. But the officer’s bodycam may contradict these claims. 


Field Sobriety Tests Drivers in Florida are NOT legally required to agree to perform field sobriety tests. But if the driver agrees, the “standardized field sobriety tests” (SFSTs) must be administered in a specific manner according to scientific protocols. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) manual emphasizes that an officer’s deviation from the protocol procedure compromises the reliability of the test.  

An experienced DUI defense lawyer knows every step in the protocol by memory and can pick the officer’s testimony apart when the test is performed incorrectly. For example, did the officer provide correct instructions? Did they provide a safe, level, well-lit surface for the test? Did they demonstrate the test? Did the driver have proper footwear for the test? (NHTSA manual states 3” heels or higher will interfere with the driver’s performance of the SFSTs.) 


Miranda Rights Did the officer inform the driver of their Miranda rights?i The U.S. Supreme Court held in Miranda and later cases that a suspect’s answers to police questions when the suspect is in custody cannot be admitted into evidence unless the police first advise the suspect of their constitutional rights to remain silent, their right to speak with a lawyer at no cost before any questioning and that any statement the suspect makes can be used against them in court. 


Proper Breathalyzer Procedure — Florida law requires that the breathalyzer test be administered in accordance with specific procedures. The first procedure requires that the suspect be kept under continual observation for at least 20 minutes before the breath test. During this time, if the suspect eats, drinks, smokes, or even if they belch, the test results may be compromised. The officer who administers the test must also be certified, as does the breathalyzer machine. Then a number of specific steps must be taken, in order, to properly operate the machine. 


Learn More > What is Probable Cause for a DUI in Florida? 


Challenging a Florida DUI 


These are only some of the possible sources of evidence that an experienced Florida DUI defense attorney can use to challenge and defeat a DUI prosecution for their client. Practicing law well means staying up to date on all legal developments and honing your courtroom skills. At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, we’ve devoted our professional lives to perfecting the techniques we use to successfully defend your DUI charge. 


Call Stechschulte Nell at 813-280-1244 for a free DUI case review today.  

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