What to Expect: Preliminary Hearing

During a preliminary hearing, the judge will listen to arguments for and against your case. The prosecutor will present a case attempting to demonstrate your guilt. The defendant will present a case in favor of your innocence, and the judge will determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to an actual trial. In short, the preliminary hearing is like a trial before the actual trial. During the hearing, a prosecution may produce evidence and call witnesses to testify. Your attorney will most likely cross-examine these witnesses. Any questionable evidence will be brought to the judge's attention by the defense with the hope that the judge will dismiss the case before it is brought to trial.


During a DUI trial, the prosecution must demonstrate that the defendant is guilty of the allegations brought against them beyond a reasonable doubt. The trial is an official opportunity for the government to prove the defendant is guilty. However, the defense will also be given a chance to prove innocence. When both sides have presented all available evidence, a jury will decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

Trials are comprised of six distinct stages:

  • Jury Selection
  • Opening Statements
  • Witness Testimony / Cross-Examination
  • Closing Arguments
  • Jury Instruction
  • Jury Discussion and Verdict

The DUI trial is the most high-profile stage of the process. Many cases never reach trial because too little evidence is presented in the preliminary hearing or because the defendant pleads guilty during the arraignment.

After the Trial: Appeals

If you have already been convicted, you may decide to appeal your case. An appeal requests that your case be taken to a higher court. If you suspect that certain aspects of your case were not conducted properly or some type of legal error was made, you may decide to appeal. During an appeal, the defendant is referred to as the appellant. The appellant must put forth an argument that demonstrates key legal mistakes made during the trial that affected the outcom. If done correctly, the appellant's case may be dismissed or sentence changed.

Understanding DUI Sentencing

If the defendant pleads guilty of driving under the influence, their case will automatically proceed to the sentencing step of the DUI process. There are a variety of penalties that may be imposed after a DUI conviction. Short term incarceration (jail) may be the result of a first-time DUI offense, and long-term incarceration (prison) may result if the motorist has a previous record involving other DUIs.

Additionally, the convicted individual’s license will be suspended or revoked, and their vehicle may be impounded.

Other DUI penalties may include:

  • Community Service
  • Probation
  • Drug / Alcohol Education or Rehabilitation
  • Fines
  • Installment of a Vehicle Ignition Interlock Device

If You Are Facing DUI Charges, Seek Immediate Legal Counsel

Being accused of a crime does not mean that you must accept a guilty verdict. A skilled DUI defense lawyer can evaluate your case and use their experience to find the best possible outcome for your situation. The Tampa DUI lawyers at Thomas & Paulk have successfully handled thousands of cases, helping our clients protect their future from prosecution. Speak with us today to start building your defense.

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, contact Thomas & Paulk today at (813) 321-7323.

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Have You Been Charged with a DUI?

DUI Defense in Florida

At Thomas & Paulk, one of our primary focuses is on the defense of DUI charges. In fact, we are recognized throughout the Tampa area as one of the premier DUI defense law firms. Our team is well-versed in this area of the law and has a wide-expanse of experience in helping our clients fight against such charges.

It doesn’t matter if this is your first offense or your third, you can count on our firm to have the experience to protect your legal rights. Often, our defense starts with recounting with you how the police officer came to stop you in the first place and how he or she came to believe you may be under the influence of alcohol. If the stop was illegal, or the tests were improperly administered, we may be able to argue for the dismissal of that evidence in court, helping your chances of a dropped charge.

The important thing is that you act quickly. Criminal cases involving charges of drinking and driving are serious and they can move fast. You cannot afford to wait or ignore your charges. You need a legal professional on your side who truly understands what you're facing so that they can offer you experience counsel and sound advice. To learn more about how a lawyer like this can assist with your case, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible. Call our Tampa DUI defense attorneys at Thomas & Paulk today to schedule an initial consultation. This is a completely free, confidential appointment for you to tell us your side of the story.

  • If you're arrested for DUI, you only have 10 days to schedule a DMV hearing where you can fight to save your license.

  • A blood alcohol reading of 0.15% or more can warrant an aggravated DUI charge with harsher penalties.

  • Each year, Hillsborough County issues around 4,000 DUI citations. Out of these, more than 3,000 are found guilty.

  • Per Florida's zero-tolerance policy, anyone under the age of 21 who tests positive for any measurable blood alcohol can be charged with DUI.

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