DUI Attorneys in Tampa, FL
After an arrest for driving under the influence ("DUI") in Tampa, FL, call an attorney at Sammis Law Firm. Our offices are conveniently located in downtown Tampa just a few blocks from the courthouse. Our office hours are from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday. We also welcome your calls after our business hours, on weekends, or holidays.
Local - Trusted - Experienced
When you call our office, ask to speak with an attorney on the phone or to schedule a free consultation in the office. If you call after our normal 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.
If the arresting officer took your driver's license and issued you a DUI citation, we can help you demand a formal review hearing within the first ten (10) days after your arrest. Don't waive your right to a formal review hearing without talking to an attorney within the first ten days after your arrest.
Protecting your License within 10 Days of Your Arrest
Your first decision after a DUI arrest is whether you should demand a "formal review hearing" or just waive all of your rights during a "waiver hearing." The only benefit of waiving all of your rights and stipulating to the administrative penalties is getting an immediate hardship license. Unfortunately, waiving all of your rights also means that you are stipulating to the suspension and the administrative finding that you were DUI. That stipulation will stay on your driving record for the next 75 years.
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 and your full driving privileges will be restored as if the suspension never happened. After requesting the formal review hearing, your attorney can hand you a 42-day hardship permit so you can continue driving to work and school.
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.
Click here to read more about our Recent Case Results in DUI Cases.
A DUI arrest comes with long-lasting consequences. Contact us today to find out what you need to do immediately to protect your driving privileges, avoid a criminal record, and defend your good name. During the consultation, we can discuss the best defenses that might apply to your case.
Call 813-250-0500 to schedule a free and confidential consultation today.
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. 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 certain evidence against you or even dismiss the charges completely. Pre-trial motions are important because if the judge decides that certain evidence cannot be used at trial, then the prosecutor may decide to drop the charges completely 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 certain 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 Charges
We created this website to give you general information about different ways to fight a drunk driving case. Many people assume that if they were arrested for DUI, then they will be convicted of DUI. 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 decides to drop the charges before trial;
- The prosecutor decides to reduce the charges to a less serious offense such as "reckless driving" before trial;
- The charges are dismissed by the court before trial; or
- The individual is found "not guilty" 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 breath or blood alcohol concentration was .15 or over. Recent DUI statistics show that that the average breath alcohol concentration (BAC) reading in Florida is right at .015. Nearly half of DUI breath test cases involve a reading of .15 or above.
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 test his breath, blood or urine, then only the second option is available to the prosecution.
Why the DUI Arrest Feels Like a Setup
After an arrest, the procedures used by the DUI enforcement officer might feel like a complete setup. If the officer asked you to take the field sobriety exercises, the officer will NOT tell you that the exercises are completely voluntary. Once you understand the field sobriety exercises, you will see that these exercises are a setup for failure. While the officer will claim that the exercises were used to determine "impairment of your normal faculties," the exercises required you to do completely abnormal things like stand on one foot or put your finger on your nose.
If you refuse the "voluntary" field sobriety exercises, that decision can sometimes be used against you at trial. In some cases, the prosecutor will argue that your refusal to participate in the "voluntary" exercises show your “consciousness of guilt.” Officers often ask questions in a way that makes even a completely innocent person sound guilty. If you were asked to take a breath test, the officer might have told you that you had no right to talk to an attorney first.
The breath test can also feel like a setup since your breath disappears out the other end of the tube. In a breath test case, you have no opportunity to have the breath sample retested. The breath test affidavit is used to determine your fate. Without the proper representation, you have no way of knowing if the test was performed properly or if the reading is accurate and reliable.
Although you have the right to request an independent blood test after taking the breath test, the officer probably never told you about this option. Even if you knew to ask, the officer might have refused to accommodate that request. Even worse, if you refused to submit to a breath, blood or urine test, then the prosecutor will argue that the refusal means you were "conscience" of your guilt. In some cases, a person has a perfectly good reason for refusing to submit to the test that has nothing with "consciousness of guilt."
While a DUI might sound like a complete setup, your criminal defense attorney can help you level the playing field. Your attorney can expose the tactics used by the arresting officer and the accuracy of the breath test reading. If you refused to submit to testing, your attorney can show all of the reasons why an innocent person might refuse the test.
Call us to find out more about important defenses that can be used in your case.
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 DMV 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, all of the terms of the plea deal can be negotiated.
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).
In the past, the State Attorney's Office was more willing to agree to a "withhold adjudication" in DUI cases reduced to reckless driving. Today these dispositions have become more difficult to obtain. Talk with your attorney about the difference between being "adjudicated guilty" and receiving a "withhold of adjudication."
Although the recently elected State Attorney in Hillsborough County is considering a diversion program for first-time offenders after a DUI arrest, there is currently NO diversion program offered in the courtrooms in Tampa or Plant City.
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 completely. 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:
- 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 in a checkpoint is the 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 a key piece of evidence the prosecutor otherwise 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;
- 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 can 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 an important 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, certain indirect or collateral consequences occur. The consequences are especially harsh for individuals in certain professions and those who require special state or federal certification including doctors, lawyers, nurses and other health care professionals, school teachers, counselors, pilots, members of the military, and members of local, state or federal law enforcement agencies.
If you were arrested for DUI at MacDill Airforce Base in Tampa, FL, your DUI case could 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.
Protecting Your Driver's License - The 10 Day Rule
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 if you allegedly 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 requesting the formal review hearing, we can help you obtain a 42-day driving permit while we fight the suspension (assuming your driver's license was valid at the time of your arrest)
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 Office of the Bureau of Administrative Reviews DHSMV2814 East Hillsborough AvenueTampa, 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 important documents and witnesses. Your attorney can explore defenses that may ultimately help you to avoid the administrative suspension. That same testimony and evidence is critical to fighting the criminal charges in court.
Top Five Places in Tampa for the Last Drink Before a DUI Arrest
After an arrest for DUI, each person will be asked where they consumed their last alcohol beverage prior to being booked into the jail. Statistics related to those responses are included in the Hillsborough County Last Drink Survey which named these vendors as the top five placed named in 2014:
- The Kennedy
- G Bar/Fusion
DUI enforcement officers with the Tampa Police Department often have extra officers stationed near these locations.
Top 10 DUI Arrest Locations for a DUI in Tampa
The DUI enforcement units with the Tampa Police Department (TPD) have developed certain favorite areas to look for individuals who might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In fact, for many years the TPD's website listed the top 10 locations for a DUI arrest in Tampa.
Many DUI enforcement officers routinely patrol the same areas or wait for individuals who are leaving bars or other local attractions where alcohol is served. In fact, an overwhelming majority of arrests made by TPD occur after routine traffic stops in these areas within the Tampa city limits:
- SOHO - Howard Avenue just South of Kennedy Blvd;
- Channelside District;
- Howard Avenue (Kennedy to I-275);
- Dale Mabry (Martin Luther King to Hillsborough Avenue);
- Tampa Palms area;
- Nebraska Avenue (Waters to Fowler);
- Courtney Campbell Causeway;
- Ybor City;
- MacDill Avenue (Kennedy to Columbus); and
- Kennedy Blvd (Dale Mabry to Westshore).
Choosing a DUI Attorney for Your Case in Tampa, FL
Choosing a good DUI lawyer in 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, recent statistics, 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. Our attorneys are also active in criminal defense organizations and the local, state and national level include:
- DUI Defense Lawyers Association (DUIDLA);
- Hillsborough County Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (HCACDL);
- Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (FACDL);
- National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL); and
- NORML National Legal Committee (NLC).
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. That focus on serious and criminal traffic cases allows our attorneys to stay current on the most recent changes in the law. 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 Monday, August 7, 2017.