Articles Posted in DUI & BUI

If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime in Florida, you should know what’re facing. You’ll most likely be facing  knowledgeable and capable prosecutors who are well-versed in using the legal system to get the information they want in order to make their case. They know how to phrase the requests they file with the court and make arguments in ways that generally persuade judges.

In order to defend yourself fully, then, you need legal representation that also knows how make (or oppose) requests effectively and make (or oppose) arguments persuasively. You need to be sure you have an experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney on your side.

Consider the case of L.L. Actually, it was, at first, the non-case of L.L. In 2018, the state asked a judge to issue a subpoena for L.L.’s medical records. At that time, L.L. was not facing any criminal charges. The state argued that it needed the records as it had reasonable suspicion that the records held “information relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.”

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There are many different ways to pursue justice if you’re a criminal defendant. Sometimes, the best way is to plead not guilty and to contest your case all the way through trial and any necessary appeals. Others times, however, the best path forward may be a plea agreement. Even if a “not guilty” verdict is not a viable option in your situation, there are still variables in play that can increase or decrease the severity of your criminal penalty. Getting justice can mean ensuring that you do not receive an unjust sentence based upon a bad application of the facts or the law. To get the help you need in securing the justice you deserve, be sure to retain the services of a skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney.

Here’s an example involving one man who pled guilty. J.P. was facing two charges in a DUI-related matter. Both charges related to one fatal crash that took place in Broward County in June 2011, where a motorcyclist died after skidding into J.P.’s SUV. The accused man entered a guilty plea and, as part of the agreement, the state dropped count one.

That left the court to sentence J.P. on count two, which was a felony. Florida splits felony crimes into 10 categories of severity. 10 is the most severe and 1 is the least severe. There are several factors that can cause the “score” you are assessed on your scoresheet to go up. Some include if you have prior criminal convictions, if your crime injured multiple victims, if your crime resulted in a victim’s (or victims’) death or if you were on probation when you re-offended. Your score may go up in instances such as those.

A friendly heads up this weekend for those of us who will be enjoying the official beginning of summer.  The PCSO has announced that they are participating in a Memorial day enforcement operation.

Cleverly named the 2018 Memorial Day S.A.L.E. (Sea Air and Land Enforcement), it began 9:00 a.m. today and will continue until 5:00 p.m. Monday.

Per the official release ” The detail will utilize the Marine Unit to conduct vessel safety inspections and enforcement of marine laws to include impaired vessel operation. The Flight Unit will assist the Traffic and DUI Unit in the enforcement of speeding, aggressive driving, and driving under the influence.

The detail is part of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Strategic Policing through Education and Enforcement for Drivers (SPEED) highway safety grant and the DUI Enforcement Enhancement Program grant.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is committed to reducing deaths, injuries, and property damage associated with crashes related to speed, aggressive driving, and the impaired operation of vehicles and vessels”.

In summary, have fun and be careful.  Know that there will be heightened police presence on most major roads and waterways.  If you are drinking, then Uber.  If you are boating, be careful and make sure you have all the proper boating safety equipment at hand. Continue reading

A new article from the Tampa Bay Times discusses new changes that makes getting a DUI in Saint Pete even more costly.

Just passed by the city council, a new ordinance now calls for a $500 fine plus towing/storage costs for drunken drivers if they want to get their vehicle out of the impound lot post-arrest.  The SPPD will need additional training in this matter before they start enforcing this new rule.  It is not known when it will go into effect.  Also not known? If a person who is later found to be not guilty or not under the influence at the time will be able to have their money refunded.

A city council member remained unmoved. “Difficult consequences to poor decisions is what changes behavior. “Call Uber, call a taxi, save a whole lot of money and probably a life. There’s just too many easy ways to save the $500.”

With this ordinance, Saint Petersburg becomes the first city in the Tampa Bay area to add a fine to get your car back from impound.  Hillsborough and Pasco officials both denied wanting a similar law in their area.

With over 445 dui arrests in Saint Petersburg so far this year, members hoped this new law will make tipsy drivers think twice before getting behind the wheel.  City council voted 6-2 on this new law with the two members who voted against the ordinance stating worries about due process and an extra burden on certain driviers who could not afford the additional expense.

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Quick tip from ABC news…when your brother gets arrested for DUI and you want to argue with the cop, make sure you are also not driving under the influence

Florida Highway Patrol arrested a brother and sister for separate DUIs last Friday morning near Ocala.

Reports say that troopers received a BOLO (be on the lookout) call for a reckless driver going southbound on 75.  A trooper spotted the car and stopped it on State Road 200.  The driver, identified as 31-year-old Josue Moncada, was interviewed and eventually arrested for DUI shortly before 3:00 a.m.

In a case of justice delayed but (finally) not denied, the case of the “affluenza teen” may finally have come to an end…

Ethan Couch, who killed four people in a DUI manslaughter case, but received no jail time in a case that outraged the nation finally received his punishment.

A Texas judge just sentenced him to two years in the Tarrant County jail-180 days per each person he killed.  While this seems light, it is the maximum punishment he could receive based on the conditions of his parole.  The judge announced that Couch’s terms of probation would be similar to what he was previously doing including no drugs/alcohol and he must get a job.

Ethan Couch was front page news in 2013 when a now retired judge sentenced him to 10 years of probation only after he drove into a crowd of people.  Though only 16 at the time, he was legally drunk on stolen beer and the crash killed four people including a youth pastor and  a mother and daughter.

The judge at the time listened to Couch’s criminal defense attorney who hired a psychologist.  The psychologist claimed that the boy was a victim of “affluenza” and that he was so spoiled from his family that he never learned the difference between right and wrong.  The court was told that the “child” never learned that actions have consequences.

The judge bought it and Couch stayed out of trouble…for a while.  Video last year showed him playing beer pong at a party which was a violation of his probation.  Rather then face the court, Couch and his mother Tonya fled to Mexico.  They both changed their appearance with Couch sporting dyed blonde hair and his mother holding tens of thousands in cash.  They were arrested in Puerto Vallarta in December and he was deported in January.

As of this writing, his mother still faced a third-degree felony charge.

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Standardized field sobriety tests were developed in the 1970s. Even at the time, the science behind them was known to be a little bit unreliable. Unfortunately, says NY speeding ticket lawyer Zev Goldstein, they continue to be used across the country, in many cases as part of the evidence to convict otherwise responsible individuals. It is crucial, therefore, that lawyers attempting to fight a drunk driving charge are able to fully understand field sobriety tests, their roots, and why they might not be as reliable as many people believe.

Field Sobriety Tests Are Voluntary

Drivers who are stopped for a field sobriety test don’t have to take them. Taking a field sobriety test is voluntary. In many cases, however, defendants may not even realize that they’ve given permission for the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test—or that the officer has likely already decided on the verdict before the test is conducted.

Three “Reliable” Tests

There are a variety of sobriety tests that are actually used in the field. Many people have been asked to touch their noses, recite the alphabet backwards, or perform a variety of other tasks. However, there are only three tests that are even somewhat reliable in determining whether or not a subject is inebriated:

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test requires the officer to evaluate the way the individual’s eyes move in response to outside stimulus. Typically, they’re asked to follow a pen or a small light while the officer looks for eye movements that are jerky, an inability to follow the pen, and when the eye begins to jerk.

The One Leg Stand test is exactly what it sounds like. The individual being tested must raise one leg off the ground, look at it, and hold the position for thirty seconds while counting by thousands.

The Walk and Turn test requires the subject to take heel to toe steps on a straight line, then turn and repeat it in the other direction.

Even if all three tests are used correctly—that is, conducted exactly according to the instructions and combined—they only have an 83% accuracy rate in predicting a BAC of more than 0.10. That allows for a 17% deviation based purely on other circumstances and doesn’t allow for tests that have been performed incorrectly.

Planting Seeds of Doubt

It’s the lawyer’s job to convince the jury from the very beginning of the trial that these tests aren’t as accurate as most officers would like for them to believe. Start with the knowledge that 98% of officers conducting the tests do them wrong. They don’t perform them under controlled circumstances: the ground at the side of the road is often uneven, and wind, the placement of the sun, or a variety of other conditions can impact the results. These seeds of doubt should be planted from the very beginning so that by the end of the trial, the jurors are already convinced of the defendant’s innocence.

Evaluating the HGN Test

The HGN test is the most misunderstood of the three tests and the one that it is most difficult to properly evaluate. Many officers don’t even know how to correctly administer it: they may move the pen too fast, hold it for too short a period of time, or fail to correctly identify the eye movements that can indicate intoxication. They may also fail to properly identify a 45 degree angle—something that you can ask the officer to do on the stand. Check the video and time it: if the test takes less than a minute, the officer has done something improperly. All of these steps are critical to ensuring that the client isn’t facing a DUI charge through no fault of their own.

In many cases, standardized field sobriety tests are designed primarily to incriminate, not to prove anything. By the time they pull over the driver, many officers have already made their decision. Once the case goes to court, however, it’s the lawyer’s job to ensure that those tests are not used to incorrectly convict someone who isn’t guilty.

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Saint Petersburg, Florida

From the Tampa Bay Times, what NOT to do when you have been drinking and driving

Last Tuesday, a 57-year-old local Saint Petersburg woman was arrested for a DUI.  The police first detected she may have been intoxicated when she crashed into a marked patrol car!

A SPPD officer was sitting in his cruiser on central and 31st street with his lights on.  Around 8:35 p.m., the woman rear-ended the patrol car with enough force that the officer had to go to Bayfront Health nearby to get checked out.  Both the officer and the suspect were later released from the hospital.

At the scene of the crash, the suspect showed several signs of impairment and after a DUI investigation, she was arrested and later bonded out.

While the suspect IS innocent until proven guilty, a search of her public records show several prior drinking related charges including prior traffic infractions, a prior DUI and several counts of battery on a law enforcement officer.

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17th time is not the charm for a woman as she picked up yet another DUI, what will happen to her?

In Shelbyville, Tennessee, a woman has been arrested for her 17th DUI and her 16th driving while license  suspended!

Dorothy Hanson began her DUI marathon in 1985 and it has only escalated.  She has picked up six more in the last 10 years!

The Washington Times has a brief blurb on a drunk man and his 15 minutes of fame as he crashed into Rod Stewart‘s Palm Beach home’s mailbox…

A Niceville, Florida man was charged with driving under the influence with property damage after he crashed his Toyota into singer Rod Stewart’s Palm Beach home.  The only casualty was the “Do you think I’m sexy” crooner’s mailbox.

37-year-old Michael Hutson Lutz was pulled over by the Palm Beach police shortly before 8:00 p.m. when the officer noticed his vehicle weaving on the road and crossing the center lane.  As he pulled over for the police, his car struck Stewart’s mailbox along South Ocean Boulevard.  Mr. Lutz’s night only went down from there.

When asked for his driver’s license, the defendant gave the cop his credit card.  The arrest report noted that the man had bloodshot, watery eyes, a “distinct odor of alcohol on him” and spoke with a heavily slurred speech.

The officer called in the DUI squad and Michael performed and failed five separate “Field Sobriety Exercises”.  These included the “walk and turn”, “finger-to-nose” and “one leg stand”.

The impaired suspect was arrested and per the police report he made “several inappropriate statements” on the way to the police station.  He was booked in and was offered a breathalyzer.  He blew almost three times the legal limit of a .08!

As far as the innocent mailbox, the Palm Beach Police Department estimated damage in the amount of $500.  Being that Rod Stewart is worth between 25-100 million dollars (at least), it is safe to say that the mailbox will be replaced.

At the time of this writing, Michael Lutz was unavailable for comment and his criminal defense attorney declined to make a statement.  It was unclear if the defendant had any prior DUIs but his driving record showed traffic infractions for speeding, running a stop sign and others.
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