Articles Posted in DUI

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Teacher’s Aide by day, pantless driver by night? That’s what Pasco County deputies claim after pulling over Kristi Steuber earlier this week. According to a police report, Steuber was pulled over in Pasco County for speeding when deputies detected an odor of alcohol on her breath after making contact. Deputies claim Steuber attempted to explain where she had been and what she was doing but simply mumbled when asked. As is standard protocol when an officer has reasonable suspicion of DUI, Steuben was asked to exit the vehicle to perform field sobriety exercises. This is when things went downhill quickly for Steuber according to the police. Police allege Steuber had nothing on from the waist down when she exited her car and didn’t acknowledge this fact until asked twice to put on some pants. As one could imagine, based at least in part on the allegation of a breezy booty and her mugshot, Steuber was arrested for DUI and later is alleged to have blown a .135 and .137.

There are certain DUI cases that make DUI lawyers cringe. This, my friends, is one of them. Compared to many DUI’s I’ve handled, this breath test isn’t remarkable. As most know, in Florida, to be convicted of driving under the influence the State must prove the defendant drove or was in actual physical control of a vehicle and while doing so was either under the influence of alcoholic beverages or a chemical substance or a controlled substance to the extent that his or her normal faculties were impaired or had a blood or breath-alcohol level of .08 or more. The .13 breath test Steuber is alleged to have given, though above the legal limit isn’t a rockstar level. The struggle for her attorney will be the issue of pants. Having pants on when pulled over by the police is helpful when trying to convince them or a jury that the driver was sober. Obviously no pants isn’t proof positive that one is impaired, however one could safely say most prosecutors would rely heavily on this fact while making their case. Free legal advice- when driving home from the bar, wear pants.
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The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled last week that one suspected of driving under the influence can still be arrested in spite of passing field sobriety tests, a decision overruling a case from 2012 that ruled when a motorist passed six field sobriety tests that he could NOT be arrested. As most assume, field sobriety tests can be the deciding factor as to whether a motorist goes to jail for DUI or whether they go home. While this is generally correct, probable cause for a DUI arrest is generally established by observation of both field sobriety tests and other signs of impairment.

As with any arrest there must be sufficient probable cause to make the arrest legal within the bounds of the Fourth Amendment. Specifically for a DUI arrest it is often the case that the officer detects, upon contact with the motorist, certain impairment indicators that give rise to the officer’s reasonable suspicion that the motorist is committing the crime of DUI. Generally if the officer sees that the motorist has bloodshot and watery eyes, smells of alcohol, has slurred speech amongst other factors, the officer will have reasonable suspicion to request the individual to perform field sobriety tests. If the motorist agrees to perform field sobriety tests and performs in an insufficient manner, the officer will have probable cause to make an arrest. What makes this Tennessee ruling questionable is that even if a motorist passes the exercises put in place by the State to determine impairment, he could still take a ride to the poke. In other words, now it seems that in Tennessee if Officer Friendly subjectively thinks that a motorist is impaired, in spite of sufficient field sobriety test performance, he can now make an arrest. What’s unnerving is that though one can pass objective tests in place to measure impairment and still get arrested, assuming a proper detainer, I know of no case in which one has failed field sobriety tests and a court has found that probable cause did not exist for an arrest for DUI.
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19-year-old Canadian pop star Justin Bieber was arrested early this morning by Miami Beach police for allegedly driving with an expired driver’s license, DUI, and resisting arrest without violence, all misdemeanors. According to Officer Medina’s Complaint/Arrest affidavit Bieber was observed in a yellow Lamborghini racing or at least “start a contest of speed (drag racing) from a start” with an accompanying red Lamborghini. Officer Medina claims two large black SUVs were following the Lamborghinis in an effort to block off traffic to facilitate the race. Upon detainer Bieber is said to have questioned why he was stopped while emanating an odor of alcohol, was slow and deliberate in his movements and had bloodshot eyes. After becoming rather nasty with responding officers Bieber is alleged to have resisted the investigation leading to his arrest. In spite of his arrest Bieber is said to have advised that he was not drunk and that he was coming back from recording music at a studio. Officers were not “beliebers” and arrested the pop prince anyway.

I’m not a fan of Justin Bieber. I don’t know what he sings but even if I did I don’t think my taste in music is the same as my 6 year old niece’s or that of a 15 year old high school sophomore’s. I’m sure he’s great in his own right and if he wants to gift me a few million who am I to be rude and say no? All that said, I’d love to defend him on his recent snafu as this case may present some issues to huff and puff over. Will the huffing and puffing blow the case down? Probably not but it could provide leverage to free The Biebs on lesser charges. Lets start with the resisting arrest without violence charge.
Officer Medina claims in his Complaint/Arrest Affidavit that Bieber was pulled over for “drag racing with the other Lamborghini.” In other words, his reasoning for detaining “The Biebs” was reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed. Upon detainer Officer Medina asked the Canadian sensation to step out of his car and allow for a safety pat down. Officer Medina tried to effect this brief search for weapons and contraband and Bieber bucked, leading to his pulling his arms away after Officer Medina elected to cuff Bieber, likely more so for being a smartass than anything else.

In Florida to support a finding of guilt for the offense of resisting arrest without violence, “the state must show: (1) the officer was engaged in the lawful execution of a legal duty; and (2) the action by the defendant constituted obstruction or resistance of that lawful duty.” See S.G.K. v. State, 657 So.2d 1246, 1247 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995). See also Jay v. State, 731 So.2d 774, 775 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999). In this case the State would argue that the Officer was engaged in a legal duty of his racing investigation and Bieber wouldn’t submit to a brief pat down. J-Beebs then pulled his arms away when the pretty bracelets came out. It’s not necessary that the underlying criminal activity providing the basis for the arrest result in a charge or conviction; it is only necessary that the officer has a founded suspicion of criminal activity to make the detention. See State v. Dwyer, 317 So.2d 149, 150 (Fla. 2d DCA 1975). In other words, the “[f]acts constituting probable cause [for an arrest] need not meet the standard of conclusiveness and probability required to support a conviction.” See Seago v. State, 768 So.2d 498, 500 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000). Officer Medina had reasonable suspicion to investigate the racing charge. As he was doing so, Bieba Baby resisted.
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Ah the infamous DUI charge. It’s the crime that can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime without regard for who you are or what your criminal history is. Our firm has represented all walks of life on DUI charges and as a general rule the individual has very little if any criminal history. Quite simply the most prevalent scenario is the one in which an individual has an evening out, drinks a bit, and miscalculates his or her ability to drive their vehicle without impairment. That said, the individual shows some sign of impairment as they drive or violates a traffic law and gets pulled over, ultimately to go to jail for a DUI arrest. Be that as it may, one of the most common questions or concerns we hear is whether or not an individual is eligible for a hardship license. The short answer is generally yes, with some exceptions.

Assuming the DUI charge is a person’s first DUI arrest they will have a few options with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), some much more appealing than others. Until last year an individual had two DHSMV options if they were charged with a DUI in Florida; challenge the suspension through a formal or informal review hearing or don’t. Now an some individuals charged with DUI in Florida can elect to waive their review hearing and instantly get a hardship license. Here are the options as they currently stand in Florida.
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Iowa City, IA man Levi Carter was arrested for DWI, Iowa’s version of Driving Under the Influence last Friday night after driving his car 55 in a 25 mile per hour zone and ultimately crashing. After contacting officers determined that Carter was impaired he was subjected a breath alcohol test where he registered initially a .467 on his first blow and on the second blow attempt the machine simply registered “HI” before the machine collapsed in its own drunken stupor from Carter’s chemical weapon breath. Ok, that actually didn’t happen but this Iowa guy did blow LITERALLY off the charts! Every State has set .08 as the legal limit where a Prosecutor enjoys a rebuttable presumption that the person he’s trying to convict is impaired, while Florida allows for no presumption if the blood alcohol level is above a .05 but below a .08 and a presumption of no impairment if the blood alcohol level is .05 or below. There is no language on what the effect of a breath test above .40 is. Call your congressman.

Given this scenario to prove this as a DUI in Florida the State must show that Carter drove or was in actual physical control of a vehicle and while doing so he had a blood alcohol level of .08 or above. From the news report he crashed his vehicle and had a passenger who represented to the police that they thought he was too impaired to drive. This witness is important as with a crash, an accident exception applies allowing a lay person to witness certain elements of a crime as a substitute for a policeman. Generally for a misdemeanor arrest an officer must witness all elements of a crime, with certain exceptions of course. The breath test result could satisfy the impairment portion of the allegation. Add those two pieces together and your DUI recipe could be complete.
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As criminal attorneys if we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a million times, “the defendant spontaneously admitted to the crime and also told me who is responsible for John F. Kennedy’s assassination.” Ok, maybe not to that extent, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read police reports, be it a DUI allegation or a Federal Wire Fraud report, where there is language that my client made admissions. Obviously many people get scared when they’re arrested and sing like canaries, but what about those that may be a little more “experienced” with the system and would never utter a peep to a police officer? What about those instances where a person “spontaneously” told the officer during a traffic stop that they have 14 tons of cocaine stashed in their garage 40 miles away? How can we as attorneys, or a jury really know what happened or what was said between the officer and the defendant without hearing a recording of the conversation?

I recently tried a Federal drug case where a DEA agent recorded in his written report that my client made certain statements that could be viewed as admissions and he later testified as to the same. Despite working for a Federal law enforcement agency with more than enough resources to buy recording equipment, this conversation was not recorded. As an attorney, without the luxury of any audio or video recordings to review, all you can do is try to chip away at the Agent or Officer for not making an effort to record despite the means to do so and attempt to the point across that one who is investigating a case certainly has an interest in the outcome and therefor has some bias. Unfortunately, often a showing of bias from the standpoint of a law enforcement officer and the fact that he didn’t record the conversation isn’t enough to combat Big Badge’s testimony. This happens every day in Courtrooms all across the country and the only way to combat it is to attempt to cross examine the witness and hope that they are taking their oath seriously. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. I’m not alleging that this agent wasn’t truthful in his testimony, however had the conversation been recorded my job would have been that much more difficult as it’s a hell of a lot harder to impeach a recorded conversation than a conversation that’s retold by a witness.
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Tennessee man Jerimiah Clyde Hartline, 19, was arrested on suspicion of grand theft, driving without a license and hit and run for stealing an 18 wheeler, crashing it, and causing a giant traffic jam in Temecula, California earlier this month. First off, sweet name. Only a guy with a name like this from the hills of the dirty south would have the presence of mind to commandeer a big rig to prevent a zombie attack. Excellent thinking Clyde. No, not really as this has Florida written all over it. Meanwhile, back at the ranch… According to the California Highway Patrol, Hartline informed authorities that he stole the truck from a weigh station in Rainbow, California because he was sure zombies were hot on his trail. Further, despite his high speed driving and swerving all over the road, the zombies wouldn’t shake loose eventually causing Mr. Hartline to crash the truck and injuring many. As a result of the zombie attack and subsequent crash, all four lanes of the interstate were closed for several hours while cleanup crews cleared the truck from the road and corralled the two loads of strawberries on board. According to the news report it is “unknown whether Hartline was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

Yes, it would be a mystery as to whether Mr. Hartline was sober or slightly influenced by an “extracurricular” substance… Man, I wonder if he was? Time will tell with a potential DUI. As for now, we know he’s getting charged with grand theft. If I were a betting man I’d estimate he will be charged with DUI with serious bodily injury as well.
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A pantsless and shoeless Jonesboro, Arkansas woman is being charged with DUI after crashing her 2001 Pontiac Grand Am into a mobile home last week. Witnesses told authorities that Jamie Jeannette Craft, 28, then got out of her car and into a child’s Power Wheels truck and attempted to flee the scene of the crime. Despite the undoubtedly high speed chase that ensued the owner of the souped up Power Wheel truck’s father caught up to Craft and made her exit the vehicle. Craft then walked to her mother’s home where officers later found her to be irate, intoxicated, and disorderly. Upon arrest Craft was taken to jail and blew a very reasonable .217 just shy of three times the legal limit. It is unknown what the legal alcohol limit is to drive a Power Wheel while pantsless. Craft was ultimately charged with DUI and leaving the scene of the accident.

Whoa. This story has everything you could possibly want. Redneck? Check! No pants? Check, check! Ridin’ dirty in a damn Power Wheel!?!?! Yep, have that too! Despite all of her alleged wrongs, at least she looks beautiful in her mug shot… A Tampa DUI lawyer could tell you that the meat and potatoes of a DUI or DWI allegation are pretty much uniform from state to state with some unique differences. In Florida, under Florida Statute 316.193 the State could prove a DUI under Ms. Craft’s factual scenario by showing that she drove or was in actual physical control of a vehicle and while driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle she had a breath alcohol level of .08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath. Specifically because there was damage, should they charge her with being at fault for that damage they would have to make an additional showing that as a result of her operating her Pontiac, she caused or contributed to causing damage to the property of whoever owned the mobile home she so delicately nudged. In Florida generally an officer must see all elements of a misdemeanor in order to make an arrest. For a DUI there is an exception that a lay witness can testify as to a Defendant driving when there is a traffic crash amounting to a breaking to pieces of something on the vehicle or object hit. If your Tampa DUI attorney can show that there was no crash, he may be able to get your DUI dismissed on a pretrial motion as our Tampa DUI lawyers did for one of our clients. If one of these witnesses saw Craft behind the wheel and there was damage amounting to a crash, this case could be proven in Florida. If this case was proven in Florida, the Defendant would face enhanced DUI penalties because of the high breath test and would be liable for restitution for the damage caused.
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Brooksville, Florida man, Timothy Carr, was issued a DUI for driving through a Brooksville Walmart on a motorized shopping cart earlier this month. It is reported that Mr. Carr was quite intoxicated while cruising through the store drinking alcohol that he had plucked from the shelf while inside and also knocked several additional items from their shelves. When confronted by police, Mr. Carr told them that he had no money to pay for any of the items he was drinking and carrying in his cart. Police learned during questioning of Mr. Carr that he is homeless and has two prior arrests or convictions (the report was unclear) for theft. Based on police observations and their impression of his criminal history they have recommended that he be formally charged with disorderly intoxication, DUI and felony theft.

Unlike some other states, a person can receive a DUI in Florida so long as they are driving or in actual physical control of a “vehicle” as defined in Florida Statute 316.003(75). The motorized shopping cart driven by Mr. Carr fits the definition of vehicle as it is a “device in or upon by which a person or property may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except for devices travelling on stationary rails or tracks.” In other words, because a motorized shopping cart could be driven on a highway, Mr. Carr could be charged with a DUI. Of course conviction could be another story as field sobriety tests would likely need to be conducted and show impairment along with a chemical test or refusal of that test. If no other signs of impairment are present, a Tampa DUI lawyer could argue that Mr. Carr is simply not of sound mind or suffers from collateral medical issues, thereby preventing a shopping experience without incident. Would it work? Who knows. Tampa DUI charges, like other charges, are fact driven and unique. The short answer… It depends.
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A Minnesota State Court of Appeals recently ruled that a two wheeled motorized transit machine called a “Segway” was more like a pedestrian than a “vehicle” for purposes of Minnesota’s DUI law, thereby throwing out a DUI charge against Mark Greenman, a two time contestant of the Segway DUI challenge. The Minnesota court ruled that a Segway, having a top speed of only 15 miles per hour, makes it much more like a human being and their movement than that of a car or other device considered to be a vehicle under Minnesota law. A common misconception just about anywhere you go is that one cannot get a DUI on a “device” that isn’t propelled by some type of motor, be it gas or electric. Because DUI is most often prosecuted in a State court, laws vary by state and some probably do adopt this notion. Florida may be a bit vague on this issue. Our Tampa criminal attorneys have long felt that Florida is very much a “Police State,” enacting and enforcing laws that reap a financial benefit for the State more so than those laws aim to punish. In Florida one can get a DUI on a bicycle, State v. Howard, 510 So.2d 612 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987), a lawnmower, while simply sitting in your car with keys nearby, on an ATV, or any other “device” considered a vehicle. Rest assured the definition is a broad one so as to encompass as many objects into the “vehicle” umbrella as possible. So what about a Segway? Electric Personal Assistance Mobility Devices are described in Florida Statute 316.003(83) as essentially being segways. Further, this section explicitly excludes them from being a “vehicle,” an issue very relevant for purposes of DUI in Florida. From the look of it, if the segway fits the description under this Statute, you likely are excluded from a DUI charge. Where this could get sticky is if there is a tandem wheel segway produced or ridden and the thing goes over 20 miles per hour.

In Florida in order to prove that one was driving under the influence contrary to Florida Statute 316.193, it must proven that the following two elements existed beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Someone drove or was in actual physical control of a vehicle.

2. While driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle, the individual was either;

a. under the influence of alcoholic beverages and/or a chemical substance and/or a controlled substance to the extent that his or her normal faculties were impaired.

or
b. had a blood/breath-alcohol level of .08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood/210 liters of breath.
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