DUI Lawyers in Tampa, FL
Sammis Law Firm, P.A.
Hillsborough County has more DUI arrests than any other county in Florida, even though it is only the fourth most populous county in the state. Officers with the Tampa Police Department, deputies with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, or troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol make the vast majority of these arrests. Most DUI investigations begin with a routine traffic stop or crash investigation.
Officers in these agencies work together during "saturation patrols" and "sobriety checkpoints" to pool their resources while using the Breath Alcohol Testing (B.A.T.) mobile unit.
After an arrest for driving under the influence ("DUI") in Tampa, FL, contact an attorney at Sammis Law Firm. With offices in downtown Tampa just a few blocks from the courthouse, we focus on fighting drunk and impaired driving charges in Hillsborough County, FL.
Attorneys for DUI Defense in Tampa, FL
By focusing on DUI defense in Hillsborough County, we are familiar with the standard operating procedures used the local agencies when conducting DUI investigations.
Although other attorneys might tell you to waive all of your rights by seeking immediate hardship reinstatement, we demand a formal review hearing to contest the administrative suspension in each of our cases. The formal review hearing must be demanded within ten (10) days of the arrest. We also help our clients obtain a 42-day permit so they can keep driving while we fight the administrative suspension.
We understand common problems that arise in these cases and how to use those issues to your advantage when negotiating a pre-trial settlement or when preparing your case for trial.
With offices in downtown Tampa, our normal business hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. We have an attorney on call to answer your questions 24/7 after our normal business hours, on weekends and during holidays. We also have a second office at 7509 Little Road in New Port Richey, FL, right across from the West Pasco Judicial Center.
Click here to read more about our Recent Case Results in DUI Cases.
When you call our office, ask to speak with an attorney on the phone or schedule a confidential consultation in the office. If you call after our business hours, leave a message with our answering service and one of the four attorneys in the firm will call you back immediately to discuss your case.
Call 813-250-0500 to discuss your case today.
Protecting your License within 10 Days of the Arrest
After an arrest for drunk driving in Hillsborough County, the arresting officer will take your driver's license if:
- your BAC is over the legal limit of .08; or
- you refused to submit to a chemical test of your breath, blood or urine.
After the arrest for "driving under the influence" you only have ten (10) days to demand a formal review hearing to contest the administrative suspension of your driver's license.
By demanding the formal review hearing, we can help you obtain a 42-day driving permit while we fight the suspension. The 42-day permit allows you to drive to work, school, and church while we fight the suspension.
Especially if you are accused of a first-time DUI and might qualify for a diversion program, you still need to protect your driver's license by demanding a formal review hearing. The formal review hearing is one of the most important parts of the case.
Too many people waive their right to a formal review hearing by seeking an immediate hardship license without understanding the lifelong consequences that come with that decision.
Unfortunately, waiving all of your rights means that you are stipulating to the suspension and the administrative finding that you were DUI. Unless you successfully contest it, the administrative suspension will stay on your driving record for the next 75 years (even if you seal the criminal record).
The only benefit of stipulating to the administrative penalties is avoiding the 30-day or 90-day hard suspension. Instead of waiving your rights, hire an attorney to DEMAND a "formal review hearing" to contest the administrative suspension.
If you win, the DHSMV will forever remove the suspension from your driving record. In other words, your full driving privileges will be restored as if the suspension never happened.
Find out why we ALWAYS recommend demanding a formal review hearing within the first ten (10) days after the DUI arrest. The procedures used by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) at the Bureau of Administrative Review (BAR) are complicated. Before you decide, call us to discuss your case.
RIDR Diversion Program for a First DUI in Tampa, FL
For a first DUI in Tampa, FL, with an arrest date on or after March 1, 2018, you might qualify for Reducing Impaired Driving Recidivism. RIDR is the new DUI diversion program offered by the State Attorney's Office in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit for a first DUI charge in Hillsborough County, FL.
In exchange for completing enhanced sanctions, such as installing an ignition interlock device or a SCRAM monitoring device, you can receive a negotiated plea for a charge of "reckless driving" with a withhold of adjudication. RIDR is only available for a first-time, non-aggravated DUI charge not involving a crash or property damage.
We understand all of the eligibility requirements and the best way to complete the RIDR program.
Local Tampa Attorneys Focused on DUI Defense
Focusing on DUI defense in Tampa, FL, allows our attorneys to stay current on the most recent changes in the law and the best DUI defense tactics that win cases.
When fighting the criminal charge in court, we take a scholarly approach to filing and litigating pre-trial motions including:
- motions to exclude unduly prejudicial or irrelevant evidence;
- motions to dismiss charges not supported by sufficient evidence; and
- motions to suppress evidence illegally obtained by law enforcement officers.
The pre-trial motions ask the judge to throw out evidence against you or even dismiss the charges. Pre-trial motions are important because if the judge decides that some of the evidence cannot be used at trial, then the prosecutor may decide to drop the charges or reduce the DUI to a less serious offense such as reckless driving.
Should your case go to trial, pretrial motions are extremely valuable in eliminating irrelevant or prejudicial evidence. By excluding that evidence at trial, you can often increase the likelihood of a "not guilty" verdict. Having the best chance of winning the case often depends on the outcome of these pre-trial motions.
As a practical matter, the more your attorney fights the charges and prepares for trial; the more motivated the prosecutor becomes to resolve your case for a better plea deal before trial. Getting the case reduced to reckless driving is only half of the battle because all of the terms can then be negotiated.
For example, if you get a withhold of adjudication for reckless driving, then you might qualify to seal the record after you complete probation. Getting the best possible resolution requires extraordinary efforts at every stage of the case.
Why You Should Fight the DUI Charge
We created this website to give you general information about different ways to fight a drunk driving case. Many people assume that an arrest means a conviction will necessarily occur. The statistics on Florida DUI cases, however, indicate that just 60% of all DUI citations resulted in a conviction for either DUI or reckless driving.
Many drunk driving cases are resolved without a conviction because:
- The prosecutor drops the DUI charge before trial;
- The prosecutor reduces the DUI charge to a less serious offense such as "reckless driving" before trial;
- The court dismisses the DUI charge before trial; or
- The individual is found "not guilty" of DUI at trial.
In DUI cases (often called "DWI" or "OVI" in other states) the prosecutor must prove the driver was under the influence of alcohol to the extent that his blood or breath alcohol level (BAL) was over .08 (this type of case is often called the "DUBAL").
Enhanced penalties apply if the breath or blood alcohol concentration was .15 or over. If your BAC was .15 or above, then you are not alone. Recent DUI statistics show that that the average breath alcohol concentration (BAC) reading in Florida is right at .015.
Alternatively, the prosecutor can prove that the driver's "normal faculties" were impaired due to alcohol intoxication or drug impairment. If the driver refused to submit to a test of his breath, blood or urine, then only the second option is available to the prosecution.
Stages of a DUI case in Hillsborough County, FL
After your arrest for DUI, your criminal defense lawyer can waive your appearance at many (if not all) of the pre-trial court dates. Waiving your appearance at pre-trial court dates saves you the stress and inconvenience of going to court when your appearance is not necessary.
The stages of the DUI case include:
- the first appearance or bond hearing;
- the formal review hearing to fight the administrative suspension of your driver's license by the DHSMV which usually occurs within 40 days of your arrest;
- the arraignment in the DUI case;
- the disposition dates (often called the "status hearings");
- evidentiary hearings on a motion to suppress evidence or motion to dismiss the DUI charge;
- pre-trial conferences; and
- the bench trial or jury trial.
Pre-Trial Motions and Challenges to the Prosecutor's Case
For many individuals charged with drunk driving, the goal is to avoid a DUI conviction by getting the prosecutor to agree to reduce the case to reckless driving. Even once the charge is reduced to reckless driving, your criminal defense attorney can negotiate all of the terms of the plea deal with the prosecutor.
The most important part of the negotiation is whether you will be "adjudicated guilty" of reckless driving or whether the court will "withhold adjudication." If the court agrees to withhold adjudication, then you might be eligible to seal any record of the arrest or prosecution (if you are otherwise eligible).
A DUI has serious career consequences for professionals including:
- physicians, nurses, and other health-care professionals;
- teachers and certified educators;
- lawyers and students in law school;
- members of the military; and
- law enforcement officers.
Call us to find out more about receiving a "withhold of adjudication" for the reduced charge of "reckless driving." Under those circumstances, you might be eligible to seal the record which allows you to deny or fail to acknowledge that the arrest ever occurred. Sealing the record also means that your mug shot and embarrassing details about your case will disappear from public view.
If your charges are dropped, you might be eligible to expunge your record. A DUI conviction or an adjudication of guilt on a reckless driving charge means that you can never seal or expunge the record.
Reasons Why Prosecutors Reduce DUI Charges to Reckless Driving
The DUI prosecutors with the State Attorney's Office in Tampa, Hillsborough, FL, may agree to reduce or drop the drunk driving charges for a wide variety of reasons including:
- RIDR - For a first-time offense, you might qualify for a diversion program that will result in a reduction to reckless driving in exchange for completing enhanced sanctions.
- Unlawful Stop - Concerns about the defense winning a motion to suppress evidence because of an unlawful stop performed by a law enforcement officer with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the Tampa Police Department, or the Florida Highway Patrol.
- DUI Sobriety Checkpoints - A stop during a checkpoint is the most heavily scrutinized type of detention under the Fourth Amendment. If any part of the checkpoint was set up improperly, then the evidence from every stop in that checkpoint can be thrown out by the court. Read more about our recent DUI checkpoint cases.
- Other Motions - Concerns about the defense winning a motion to exclude other evidence in the case, including evidence that you either:
- refused to take a chemical test; or
- took the breath test but blew over the legal limit of .08.
- Problems with the Intoxilyzer 8000 - Concerns about motions to attack the accuracy or reliability of the breath test machine or the particular breath test reading obtained in your case. Your attorney can file motions to show that the Intoxilyzer 8000 used in your case was not maintained in substantial compliance with the administrative and statutory rules that govern the maintenance of these machines.
- Video Evidence - Concerns about the jury returning a "not guilty" verdict if the driver does not look or sound intoxicated or impaired on the DUI video at the roadside or at the jail.
- Expert Witness - Concerns about a DUI expert witness listed by the defense that can undermine the admissibility or weight given to a key piece of evidence the prosecutor intends to rely on at trial (such as the results of any breath, blood or urine test or performance on a field sobriety exercises).
Avoiding the Expenses for a DUI Conviction
We created this website to provide you with general information about the possible DUI costs and fees that could result from not fighting the case aggressively. The direct costs are those imposed by the Court, including:
- Twelve (12) months of supervised probation;
- Fifty (50) hours of community service hours;
- Level I or II DUI school;
- Alcohol and substance abuse evaluation and follow-up counseling;
- Fines and court costs;
- Costs of supervision, costs of investigation, and costs of prosecution;
- Vehicle impoundment or immobilization;
- The possibility of jail time or incarceration; or
- Installation of the dreaded ignition interlock device.
Even more costly are the hidden costs of a DUI conviction which can include a dramatic increase in your automobile insurance premiums (including "FR-44 insurance").
Lesser known indirect expenses include increases in life or medical insurance, and the impact a criminal record might have on your future educational and employment opportunities.
Obtaining an attorney as early as possible after the arrest is a critical step towards preserving all avenues of attacking the administrative suspension and criminal charges.
Indirect or Collateral Consequences of a DUI Arrest or Conviction
After a DUI arrest, several indirect or collateral consequences occur. These consequences are especially harsh for individuals in certain professions and those who require special state or federal certification including doctors, lawyers, nurses and other healthcare professionals, school teachers, counselors, pilots, members of the military, and members of local, state or federal law enforcement agencies.
After an arrest for DUI at MacDill Airforce Base in Tampa, FL, your DUI case will be prosecuted in the federal court in the Middle District of Florida, United States District Court, Tampa Division. Special considerations apply to cases prosecuted in federal court. You must act quickly in these cases to preserve all avenues of attack.
Drivers with a CDL license face draconian sanctions after an arrest or conviction for DUI or any serious driving offense.
College students at the University of Tampa (UT) or the University of South Florida (USF) can face immediate consequences to their educational opportunities including a disciplinary hearing even if the college or university student ultimately avoids any DUI conviction.
At the Sammis Law Firm, we strive to protect our clients not just from the direct consequences of the DUI arrest and prosecution, but also from many of the hidden and indirect consequences.
The Bureau of Administrative Reviews Office in Tampa, FL
For any arrest in Hillsborough County, the formal review hearing occurs at the following location:Tampa DHSMV Bureau of Administrative Reviews (BAR) Office
2814 East Hillsborough Avenue
Tampa, FL 33610
At the formal review hearing, your attorney can present evidence and question witnesses about why your administrative suspension should be invalidated or taken off your record.
The formal review hearing also gives your attorney the chance to cross-examine the DUI enforcement officer that performed the stop and made the arrest, as well as the breath test machine technician and those involved with the calibration and inspection of the machine.
During the formal review hearing, your DUI lawyer can subpoena documents and witnesses. Your attorney can explore defenses that may ultimately help you to avoid the administrative suspension. Everything that happens at the formal review hearing can be used to fight the criminal charges in court.
Finding a DUI Lawyer in Hillsborough County, FL
Choosing a good DUI lawyer in downtown Tampa, FL, is an important decision. We created this website to give you information about the attorneys in our office and how we fight DUI cases in Tampa, FL.
Our website contains general information on DUI stories, the best DUI defenses, the most effective ways to fight the charges, the most successful DUI defenses, and information on the consequences of a DUI conviction.
No substitute exists, however, for speaking directly with a criminal defense lawyer about the particular facts of your case so that you can receive advice on the best way to proceed with your case.
Our DUI attorneys belong to the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD), an organization for many of the top DUI attorneys in Florida and throughout the United States.
The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm are focused on crimes that occur in a vehicle including DUI, reckless driving, hit and run, leaving the scene of a crash, driving on a suspended license, and fleeing to elude. Hiring the cheapest DUI attorney in town might not be in your best interest. Instead, find an attorney focused on proving the most effective and aggressive defense.
Let us put our experience to work for you. Call 813-250-0500 today for a free consultation to discuss the best strategy to fight your DUI charge.
This article was last updated on Friday, July 13, 2018.