Our Tampa DUI attorneys are both former prosecutors who have handled thousands of cases. We have the experience necessary to handle any case, from a first DUI offense to vehicular manslaughter.
Put Former Prosecutors in Your Corner
Getting arrested for DUI can ruin someone’s work prospects, render them unable to get an education, and limit their options for months, even years. Pleading guilty without consulting an attorney only makes life easier for the prosecutor. It may make life worse for you.
That’s why you deserve to have a skilled Tampa DUI attorney.
At Thomas & Paulk, we have handled 7,000+ criminal cases. Backed by more than two decades of experience, we are heavyweights in the courtroom. You can trust us to protect your rights in your criminal case and while protecting your driver's license. Whatever path is best for your future, we’ll make sure to give you the strongest possible chance of success. If you’ve been arrested, you may think there is no hope. However, there are various factors that skilled attorneys can leverage as they fight for reduced charges, acquittal, or dismissal.
Building an Effective DUI Defense Strategy
An effective DUI defense strategy may be built upon evidence of:
- Being unlawfully stopped by law enforcement
- Being arrested without the officer establishing probable cause
- An improperly administered field sobriety, blood, or breath test
- Officers incorrectly administering a forced blood draw
These issues may disqualify the evidence against you. With the help of expert witnesses and a skillful cross-examination, your attorney may be able to show that the evidence against you is inadmissible or does not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. After a person has been charged with DUI, they must consult a skilled attorney. We can get involved from the onset of the legal process and provide insight and direction as the person’s case progresses.
Contact our Tampa DUI lawyers for your free initial consultation.
Since 2001, we at Thomas & Paulk have dedicated our careers to helping people in Florida who are dealing with criminal matters: arrests, warrants, investigations, and more. Because we know the science and the laws behind DUI charges, we offer proven defense counsel.
What to Know About Florida DUI Charges
You can get a DUI with a BAL under 0.08%.
Under Section 316.193(a), a person can also get a DUI if they drive under the influence of any amount of alcohol or drugs and their normal faculties are impaired.
You can get a DUI without driving.
Under Section 316.193(2), you can get a DUI if you are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a chemical substance and you are under “actual physical control” of a vehicle. Meaning, if you were intoxicated while sleeping in the car but weren't driving, you can still get a DUI. To prove physical control, a prosecutor only has to demonstrate that a person could turn the car on in short order. That could mean proving that the vehicle was operational, the defendant possessed the car key or had it close to them, and that they were located in the vehicle (e.g. the driver's seat).
If you refuse a chemical test, your license will be suspended.
Once you receive a Florida license, you agree to consent to a chemical test if stopped for suspected DUI. If you are asked to take a chemical test during a DUI stop and you refuse, your driver’s license will be automatically suspended, even if you had nothing to drink.
Most first DUIs are misdemeanors.
Many people do not qualify for a public defender.
Not everyone qualifies for a public defender. You have to meet state eligibility requirements, which means you must have low income and assets. In Florida, there is a presumption an applicant is not indigent if he or she owns, or has equity in any intangible or tangible real estate or personal property with a net equity value of $2,500 or more, with exclusions.
A DUI can damage your credit.
If you have to rely on credit cards to pay your fines, the costs of an Ignition Interlock Device, school fees, and so on, the hefty credit card balances could affect your credit utilization ratio and FICO score. Additionally, if you fail to pay a court-ordered fine, it could go to collections.
FAQ: Tampa DUI Charges
What does BAC mean?
BAC is short for blood alcohol content. Blood alcohol content is the amount of alcohol found in a person’s blood after consuming alcohol. In Florida, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle if BAC levels are more than 0.08%. However, if an individual is a minor who is under the age of 21, they cannot have a BAC level higher than 0.01%. If a person is caught driving with a BAC level above or exceeding the legal limit, they will be arrested and charged with DUI.
Are field sobriety tests and breathalyzers accurate?
No, field sobriety tests are not. Many attorneys argue that these tests are not 100% accurate as a defense tactic. Also, many attorneys assert that these tests are subjective and designed for failure. Multiple extenuating circumstances could cause a scared, sick, or disabled driver to appear intoxicated, even if sober. Furthermore, breath tests are not foolproof. Several factors can cause the machine to give inaccurate readings, such as malfunctions, radio frequency interference, and more.
Will I go to jail for a DUI?
Possibly. For a first-time DUI offense, you will probably NOT go to jail unless you caused an accident that resulted in the injury or death of another person. Most people who serve time in jail for DUI are repeat offenders with multiple convictions.
If I get arrested for DUI, will I lose my license?
Yes. As soon as you are arrested for DUI, your license will automatically be suspended for 6 months, and you will be issued a temporary permit for 10 days. You have 10 days from the date of your arrest to schedule a hearing with the Florida DMV. At this hearing, you and your attorney will have the opportunity to challenge your driving suspension.
If my license gets suspended, how will I get to work?
If your driver’s license has been suspended, you may be able to obtain a hardship license, which typically permits you to drive to work, school, medical appointments, and other necessary errands. Before granting a hardship license, the judge will consider the circumstances surrounding your case.
What other penalties do I face if convicted of DUI?
You could face various other penalties for DUI, including fines, probation, community service, alcohol treatment programs, rehabilitation, restitution, time in prison, and more. Your vehicle may be impounded, and you may be required to get an ignition interlock device.
What is an ignition interlock device?
An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breathalyzer installed in the dashboard of a car. Before your car turns on, you must breathe into the device. If the alcohol exceeds the legal limit, the engine will not start. Once you start driving, you will randomly be required to provide additional breath samples. If you fail to provide a breath sample or your BAC is above the legal limit, an alarm will go off until the ignition is turned off.
The Cost of Hiring the Wrong DUI Attorney
One of the main concerns for offenders is how much it will cost to hire a Tampa DUI lawyer. While most people recognize the benefits of experienced legal representation, some choose to find a lawyer who offers the lowest price in hopes of saving money. Unfortunately, while they might save a little money at first, they are risking the outcome of their case.
A DUI conviction is not cheap. Not considering penalties like jail time, it costs to be convicted. Take, for example, fees. DUI can result in penalties that start at $500 and range all the way up to $5,000. Under Florida Statutes §316.193, fines depend on a variety of factors, including your BAC when pulled over, as well as any prior convictions.
Fines are only the starting point. Other costs include the money it takes to get a car back after being impounded. That can cost $200 or more. There is also the mandatory installation of the ignition interlock device (IID), which can cost $200 for the installation and $75 a month for regular maintenance. DUI charges can also significantly affect the cost of insurance. For three years after a conviction, you will need to get FR-44 insurance with increased coverage. This may cost two or even three times the cost of the pre-DUI policy.
None of this considers the cost of traveling to court, lost work time, and the opportunity cost of having your time and energy taken up by court. Combined with fines, losing a DUI case or pleading guilty is often far more expensive than the cost of a good attorney.
Why You Need a Tampa DUI Lawyer
When looking for a Tampa DUI attorney, the most important thing you can do is take your time. Don’t just accept any attorney. You need to ensure the attorney you choose will put your interests first and is qualified to deliver the best possible results.
Some questions to ask a Tampa DUI defense attorney:
- How many years of actual legal experience do you have?
- How many DUI cases have you handled before? Can you give examples?
- Briefly, can you explain how you would handle my case?
- How will I be involved during the proceedings?
- What will you do to keep me informed and involved?
- What will our fee arrangement be? How much can I expect to pay?
DUI Causing Serious Bodily Injury
Serious bodily injury is defined as an injury that creates a risk of personal disfigurement, death, or impairment. When these injuries are a factor in a DUI case, you face harsh penalties.
Types of DUI injury cases include the following:
- DUI Causing Injury:
Generally a felony offense, DUI causing injury may be punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. The driver must be found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and of causing the accident.
- DUI Manslaughter:
Often referred to as vehicular manslaughter, this involved killing another person by causing an accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This felony offense may be punishable by up to 15 to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Hit & Run:
Leaving the scene of an accident may or may not be related to drunk driving. A driver who is accused of leaving the scene of an accident may face felony hit and run charges, especially if charged with DUI. DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
Drugged Driving (DUID) in Tampa
DUI charges are not limited to alcohol. Florida laws are equally harsh on those found to be driving under the influence of drugs (DUID). Many drivers are lured into a false sense of security about their use of prescription drugs and fail to exercise caution. However, prescription drugs are treated similarly to alcohol in charges of DUI if they impair a driver’s abilities. Like drunk driving penalties, DUID penalties can increase based on how many offenses a person has committed in the past. However, since DUID charges involve illegal substances, they’re almost always accompanied by other possession or trafficking offenses.
General penalties for DUID in Florida include:
- First Offense: Up to 6 months in jail and $1,000 in fines.
- Second Offense: Up to 9 months in jail and $2,000 in fines.
- Third Offense: Up to 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines.
If a person commits their third DUID offense within 10 years of a prior conviction, they may also have their driver's license revoked for at least 10 years.
Reckless Driving & DUI Charges
Under §316.192 of the Florida Statutes, it is a crime to operate a motor vehicle recklessly, with “willful or wanton disregard” for public safety. This includes fleeing from a police officer. The first conviction will result in imprisonment for up to 90 days and a fine of $25 to $500. For a second conviction, imprisonment can be up to 6 months; the fine can be $50 to $1000. These charges can escalate depending on the circumstances of the arrest. For example, someone who caused property damage or serious bodily injury faces a first-degree misdemeanor or third-degree felony. If the defendant was driving while drunk or drugged, penalties could include mandatory completion of a DUI substance abuse education course.
What to Expect If Convicted of DUI in Tampa
A person who has been convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in the state of Florida will face a variety of legal consequences that may affect virtually every area of their life.
DUI charges may be accompanied with the following consequences:
- Monetary fines
- Community service
- Driver’s license suspension
- Vehicle impoundment
- DUI school
First-time offenders may qualify for the Hillsborough County Reducing Impaired Driving Recidivism (RIDR) initiative. Under RIDR, a person charged with a first DUI may be able to lower their charges.
Call Our Tampa DUI Defense Attorneys
If you have been arrested, we encourage you to get the involvement of our Tampa DUI lawyers. We are well-known for our experience in this area of the law. We are tough advocates for our clients' rights and go above and beyond to help them seek the best future.
Read through our case results to see the countless victories that we have obtained. If you would like to meet with our firm to discuss your case, contact us today by calling or using our online case evaluation form. We look forward to seeing how we can help you.
At Thomas & Paulk, our team consists of DUI defense lawyers who have helped protect the rights of individuals throughout Tampa and all of Florida. No matter whether you have been arrested after "failing" a breath test or if you are looking to challenge the field sobriety test, you can be confident knowing we have the experience necessary to protect you.
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