DUI Attorneys in Tampa, FL
Sammis Law Firm, P.A.
COVID-19 (coronavirus) Update: Sammis Law Firm is open for business. The four attorneys in the firm are still appearing in court for mission critical hearings, such as first appearance hearings and bond motions. For DUI cases, most dispositions and pre-trial conferences are being conducted by phone or remote video conferences, at least until June 17, 2020.
If you were arrested for DUI or any other criminal or traffic criminal case, we welcome your calls for a free consultation over the phone. We also meet with clients in the office when needed.
Did you know that Hillsborough County has more DUI arrests than any other county in Florida? The vast majority of DUI arrests in Hillsborough County, FL, are made by officers with one of the following agencies:
- the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (HCSO);
- the Tampa Police Department (TPD); or
- the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP).
DUI investigations begin with a routine traffic stop or a crash investigation. Although a few officers have an Intoxilyzer 8000 in the back of their patrol vehicle, most breath tests take place in the Central Breath Testing (CBT) Unit at the Orient Road Jail.
Sometimes DUI enforcement officers work together during "saturation patrols" or "sobriety checkpoints" to pool their resources while using the Breath Alcohol Testing (BAT) mobile facility unit.
If you were arrested for driving under the influence ("DUI") of alcohol or drugs in the greater Tampa Bay area, contact an attorney at Sammis Law Firm.
With offices in downtown Tampa just a few blocks from the courthouse, the four attorneys in our firm focus on fighting drunk and impaired driving cases throughout Hillsborough County, FL.
Attorneys for DUI Defense in Tampa, FL
By focusing on DUI defense in Hillsborough County, we understand the tactics used by local DUI enforcement officers and their standard operating procedures.
Our focus on DUI cases helps us spot issues that others might miss when fighting the administrative suspension, negotiating a pre-trial settlement, for preparing the case for an evidentiary hearing or trial.
An experienced attorney at Sammis Law Firm can help you fight to get the charges dropped or dismissed, or at least reduced to a less serious offense such as reckless driving.
With offices in downtown Tampa, our regular business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Our attorneys are on call to answer your questions after our regular business hours, on weekends, and during holidays.
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 regular business hours, leave a message with our answering service. One of the four attorneys will call you back to discuss your case.
Call 813-250-0500 right now to find out how we can help.
Ten Day Rule - How to Protect Your Driving Privileges
After an arrest for drunk driving in Hillsborough County, the arresting officer will seize 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.
The administrative suspension triggered by the DUI arrest is sometimes called the "on-the-spot" suspension. After the arrest, you only have ten (10) days to demand a formal review hearing to contest the administrative suspension.
If you hire us within the first ten (10) days after your arrest, then we can make the demand on your behalf and pick up your 42-day permit. The 42-day permit allows you to keep driving while we fight the administrative suspension.
The formal review hearing is one of the most critical 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 essentially stipulating to the suspension and the administrative finding that you were DUI. The administrative suspension will stay on your driving record for the next 75 years.
Some people might tell you to waive all your rights by seeking a "waiver review hearing." At the waiver review hearing, the hearing officer determines whether you are waiving all your rights to contest the administrative suspension.
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 as if it never happened.
Even if the suspension is not invalidated, you still win because your attorney gets the opportunity to cross-examine each of the witnesses against you and obtain evidence early in the case.
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 the best way to fight the case.
RIDR Diversion Program for a First DUI in Tampa, FL
Want some good news? 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.
Entering a DUI diversion program might be your best option, especially if overwhelming evidence exists in your case. If the prosecutor has enough evidence to secure a conviction at trial, then you should consider a diversion program.
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.
The withhold of adjudication means that you might be eligible to seal the criminal record and mugshot.
RIDR is only available for a first-time, non-aggravated DUI charge not involving a crash or property damage. Our DUI defense attorneys understand all of the eligibility requirements and the best way to complete the RIDR program.
Local Tampa Attorneys Focused on DUI Defense
Our offices have been at the same location for ten years in downtown Tampa. By focusing on DUI defense, our attorneys can 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 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 (sometimes called "the advisory")
- 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
- 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.
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
- 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
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 misdemeanor 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.
Keep in mind that if you are convicted of DUI, then the DUI conviction will remain on your driving record for the next 75 years.
Obtaining an attorney as early as possible after the arrest is a critical step towards preserving the best ways to attack the administrative suspension and criminal charges.
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, nurses, and other healthcare professionals
- school teachers and certified educators
- members of the military
- 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 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 impacts.
Being on probation for DUI is a dangerous place to be because if you do not complete the terms, then the probation officer can file the paperwork to have a violation of misdemeanor probation warrant issued for your arrest.
The penalties are even harsher if you were charged with leaving the scene of an accident or hit and run after a traffic crash, especially when you are also charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Finding the DUI Lawyer in Hillsborough County, FL
Choosing the best DUI attorney for your case 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.
Our website explains the best DUI defenses and the most effective ways to fight the charges. 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.
How do you find the best DUI defense attorney for your case? Consider the attorney's training and experience. Our DUI attorneys belong to the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD) and the DUI Defense Lawyers Association (DUIDLA), which are organizations for the top-rated DUI attorneys in Florida and throughout the United States.
The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm are focused on crimes that occur in a vehicle. Those traffic crimes can include DUI, reckless driving, hit and run, racing on the highway, 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 the top DUI attorney in the area focused on proving the most effective and aggressive defense.
Our main office is in downtown Tampa in Hillsborough County, FL. Our second office is located at 7509 Little Road across from the courthouse at the West Pasco Judicial Center. We also fight DUI cases in New Port Richey in Pasco County, FL.
Let us put our experience to work for you. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss the best strategy to fight your DUI charge.
Call 813-250-0500 today.
This article was last updated on Wednesday, July 1, 2020.