Friday, June 25, 2010

Next Steps After a DUI Refusal in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County FL

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the next steps to take after a DUI Refusal in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County Florida.

If you are pulled over for a DUI traffic stop in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or anywhere in the Pinellas County (Tampa Bay) area you have a choice whether or not to submit to Field Sobriety Tests and a Breathalyzer test (sometimes referred to as a chemical test).  No driver is required to take the tests under Florida law despite what an officer may say or imply during a traffic stop.  Your choice to refuse DUI field sobriety tests and a breathalyzer test can have a significant impact on your case.

Why This Matters To You:
The State of Florida (and specifically the Department of Motor Vehicles) considers driving to be a privilege, not a right.  Thus, if you are stopped for DUI and refuse Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) and/or a Breathalyzer test, and are ultimately arrested for DUI (based on the arresting officer’s suspicion), the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will automatically suspend your license for at least 90 days after which you may be able to apply for a hardship license.  Even if you are not ultimately convicted, the DMV will still suspend your license, and may potentially extend the suspension based on your refusal to submit to DUI testing.
On the other hand, your refusal takes away the prosecutor’s potential evidence against you in the DUI case.  Without field sobriety test evidence (which is in most cases videotaped and presented in court) and breathalyzer evidence of your impairment, the State Attorney’s Office is forced to prove that you were impaired to drive beyond a reasonable doubt.   In many cases, the lack of empirical evidence of your impairment improves the ability to defend and ultimately win your case.
Based on a DUI refusal there are several potential defenses in your DUI case:
1)    Driving - being intoxicated will not classify a DUI charge; the prosecutor must be able to prove the defendant was actually driving. This may be challenging, especially when accidents are involved.
2)    Probable Cause - proof will be inhibited if the law enforcer did not have legal cause to halt, impede, and detain.
3)    Miranda - convicting declarations may be inhibited if restraints were failed to be mentioned at the proper time.
4)    Implied Consent Warnings - if the law enforcer did not warn you of the penalties of declining to take a chemical test, or gave it inaccurately, this may affect acceptability of the test results -- as with the license suspension obliged by the motor vehicle division.
5)    Illegal Stop – if the law enforcement officer did not have a legal reason to stop you in the first place.

What To Do Next:
If You Are Pulled Over for Driving Under the Influence (DUI):
1.    Refuse any Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) and/or Breathalyzer tests (know and fully understand the consequences of this action on your driver’s license noted above)
2.    Don't speak to the police - ask to have an attorney present.
3.    Don't give a written statement – again, ask to have an attorney present.
4.    Contact an attorney immediately.

You only have TEN (10) DAYS after your DUI arrest to file a motion to challenge the administrative suspension of your license.  Hire the Morris Law Firm as your DUI Attorney and we will aggressively fight your administrative suspension.  For most people arrested for DUI the suspension of their driver license is one of their biggest concerns.  You must act within ten (10) days of your arrest to challenge this administrative suspension.

If you have been arrested for DUI in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, or Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL, contact a St. Petersburg DUI Refusal Attorney to discuss possible defenses that may exist in your case. Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney.