Despite our best intentions, accidents happen. A night out with friends, a little too much alcohol was consumed, but you still feel alright to drive. However, Tampa police think otherwise, and a poor decision turns into a charge of Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Although the experience is never pleasant, a little knowledge beforehand may help the situation be a little more bearable. This article will describe the process of arrest and prosecution of DUI in Tampa.
The typical DUI begins with a traffic stop executed by either the Tampa Police Department, the Florida Highway Patrol, or the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Most times the officer will witness erratic driving behavior that will develop a reasonable suspicion in his mind that you are intoxicated beyond the legal limit. If, after a brief investigation upon stopping the vehicle, the officer collects enough information to confirm his suspicions, he will place you under arrest and load you into the back of his patrol car. Oftentimes the investigation involves a field sobriety test, which will give the officer a chance to measure your responses and collect other information against the driver. These tests are not required, and it is generally best for you to politely decline to take them.
The first stop is the Orient Road Jail. At Central Booking other officers will take the driver’s mugshot and fingerprints along with collecting other basic biographical information. Also at the jail officers may ask the driver to take a breath, urine, or blood test for alcohol. Florida law states that driving on the roads in the state means drivers have already consented to the tests, but refusal of those tests is still an option. However, refusal of those tests also has legal consequences as well.
After being booked, the next step in the legal process will be the first appearance before the judge. At arraignment the judge reads the charges against you and allows you the opportunity to make a plea. You may make one of three pleas – guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere (no contest). Also at the arraignment the judge will determine what sort of bail amount to set for you to post if you wish to leave jail (you will most likely want to do that).
If you plead guilty or nolo contendere the next step is to sentencing. If you plead not guilty, the next step is a trial. Several motions and pre-trial hearings generally precede the trial itself, as the court must determine what evidence to allow into the trial and within what parameters the trial will be held. Also prior to trial you may be assigned a public defender, who is a defense lawyer that works for the state. Although public defenders are generally very capable attorneys, your best bet is to hire an attorney who specializes in DUI acquittals if you have the means to do so.
Penalties for a guilty verdict on a DUI charge can be substantial. Among them is the possibility of hundreds of dollars in fines, possible jail time, community service, probation, and loss of professional licenses. This is why it is important to have an experienced attorney on your side. Contact us today if you are facing a charge of DUI in the Tampa Bay area.