A conviction for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) can have expensive and lasting consequences. It is important to find an experienced DUI attorney in the Clearwater / St. Petersburg / Tampa Bay area who can evaluate your case and explain to you the full picture of best options available to you. Even if you are a first-time offender, there are things an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer can advise you on and do to minimize the sentencing or to otherwise save you from excessive damage, cost or inconvenience caused by a DUI conviction.
At The Law Office of Garry L. Potts, P.A., in Clearwater, we have more than 20 years of respected experience and first-hand knowledge of how prosecutors operate. As a former prosecutor with the Pinellas / Pasco State Attorney’s Office for fifteen years and a defense attorney for the past eight years, Garry Potts can give you the information and the support you need to find the right solution for your case.
What Do You Do If You Are Stopped For DUI?
If you are unfortunate enough to see the blue lights of a police car in your rear view mirror, you should keep in mind that you are required by Florida law to pull your vehicle over in a safe manner as soon as you are reasonably able. You are also required to give the police officer your name, drivers license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance card. Unless you have been in an accident you are not required to tell the officer any more information. Keep in mind that the officer may only be stopping you to give you warning about a burned-out tail light, or he or she may be conducting a criminal investigation for DUI or other crimes. Everything you say or do will be noted by the officer and could be used as evidence against you in court. Keep the following points in mind as you interact with the officer:
- Pull your vehicle over in a safe manner as soon as you are reasonably able.
- Turn off your car’s engine and roll down your window.
- Stay in your vehicle unless asked to get out by the officer.
- Keep your hands visible to the officer – on the steering wheel is best.
- Use the time waiting for the officer to come up to your window to think about where your drivers license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance are located – the officer will ask for them and you are required by law to provide them. Fumbling or forgetting where they are will be used by the police and prosecution as evidence of impairment if there is a DUI charge.
- Keep in mind that you are not required to answer the officer’s questions, other than your name and correct date of birth (which are on your drivers license). You cannot provide false information to the officer, but you are not required to tell him or her if you have been coming from a bar, or drinking, or how much and what type of alcohol you may have had.
- If you have not been drinking alcohol, you generally are better off answering the officer’s questions in a friendly, respectful manner. If the officer continues investigating you for a DUI, you will be better off declining to perform any physical field sobriety tests and politely ask for both breath and blood tests. Blood testing should be provided at your own expense at a local medical facility and will be worth it as independent evidence that you have not been drinking.
- If you have been drinking, but you are sure that you are not over the legal limit of .08% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) or impaired from alcohol or drugs, you do not have to answer any questions about your drinking. You should decline politely to take any field sobriety tests, but politely ask for both breath and blood tests.
- If you have been drinking or taking drugs and you believe you are impaired from them, or that you are over the legal limit of .08% BAC – Even though you made a mistake by getting into your vehicle, by this time you already realize that DUI is a serious and potentially deadly offense and you are regretting your lapse of judgment. In order to minimize the impact that your lapse of judgment may have on your life, you should politely decline to answer any questions the officer asks. You should decline to take any tests – the eye test (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, or HGN), the field sobriety tests and the breath test. Keep in mind that refusing the breath test will result in increased suspension periods of your drivers license as well as potentially a separate criminal charge of Refusal. However, providing the breath test will likely just make it easier for the State Attorney to prove your DUI case, and if your blood alcohol level is over .15%, will result in higher fines and other sentencing provisions upon a conviction.
- Remember at all times that you are likely being video taped and audio recorded by the police – whether you are standing outside your car, sitting in the back of the police car, or at the police station!
Former prosecutor and experienced criminal defense attorney Garry Potts is available to assist you to evaluate your DUI case for potential defenses and to help mitigate any sentence which you may receive so that you will be able to return to a more normal life. Call Attorney Garry Potts at (727) 538-4166 or email him online by clicking here.