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The Thanksgiving holiday is right around the corner, and AAA Tow to Go is back just in time. This is a sort of last-ditch effort to keep impaired drivers off the roads.

AAA Tow to Go has removed more than 25,000 impaired drivers from the road since 1998. In Florida, Tow to Go is available Wednesday through Monday in certain locations. Once AAA is called, a tow truck will come and transport the impaired driver and their vehicle to a safe spot withing a 10-mile radius. The service is completely free, but AAA warns that this should only be used as a backup plan.

AAA is offering this service so that no impaired drivers have an excuse to get behind the wheel this Thanksgiving holiday weekend. They encourage drivers to have a safe ride home planned in advance and only use Tow to Go as a last resort.

The NHTSA reports that DUI car crashes in 2019 resulted in 10,142 deaths. Of those fatalities, 417 happened over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Drivers operating under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol in the state of Florida from November – December 2020, caused 1,052 motor vehicle crashes, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Moreover, 5,442 DUI citations were issued across the state. AAA Tow to Go program hopes to eliminate the number of these DUI cases and offer impaired motorists a safe ride home.

thanksgiving-gca5d22c4b_1280-300x169AAA TOW TO GO OVERVIEW

Dates of Service:

6:00PM Wednesday, November 24 – 6:00AM Monday, November 29

Service Areas:

FL, GA, IA, MI, ND, NE, TN, WI, CO (Denver), NC (Charlotte) and IN (Fort Wayne/South Bend)

Phone Number: (855) 2-TOW-2-GO or (855) 286-9246

Free and available to AAA members and non-members.

Confidential local ride for one person and their vehicle to a safe location within a 10 miles radius.

AAA service vehicles are limiting passengers to one (1) per vehicle, with face mask/covering, in accordance with established COVID-19 safety protocols.  Additional passengers need to make other arrangements.

Appointments cannot be scheduled in advance to use Tow to Go. As mentioned previously this is a service to be used as a backup plan for drivers who failed to plan ahead or had their plans fall through. You should always have a safety plan in place for how you will get home safe before celebrating with alcohol and or drugs.

In some situations, AAA may need to make other arrangements to get an impaired individual a safe ride home.

Tow to Go may not be available in rural areas or during severe weather conditions.

Our Florida DUI Lawyers at Whittel & Melton strongly urge everyone to make a plan for a safe ride home if you plan to drink this Thanksgiving weekend. We know that “Blackout Wednesday” often brings out many people looking to party and have a good time. If you plan to partake in any festivities involving alcohol, please be safe and DO NOT get behind the wheel intoxicated. There are many options out there, including Uber and Lyft, taxis, buses, staying at a friend or family member’s house to sleep it off, or even using AAA’s Tow to Go program.

If you are arrested for a DUI this Thanksgiving weekend, our Florida DUI Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are here for you. We will be available 24/7 to assist you, so call us first at 866-608-5529 before you make any statements to police. We understand that good people make mistakes, and we will never judge you. We just want to help you through this stressful situation. You can always contact us online if you need assistance.
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2020 has been a crazy year, and it is pretty much safe to say that everyone is ready to say hello to 2021. You do not want to start your new year facing DUI charges, so here are some tips from our team of attorneys at Whittel & Melton to keep you safe and away from a jail cell. 

  • Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving

Remember that the legal blood alcohol level in Florida and the rest of the U.S. is 0.08%. If you are at or over this limit then you can be charged with driving under the influence. If you are driving while under the influence of illegal drugs or even over the counter or prescription meds that can impair your faculties, you can also be charged with DUI. 

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office arrested Chris Hovan, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle, Monday night for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol while a child was riding in the front passenger seat in the car.  

blue-light-4165414_1920-1-300x200The incident occurred around 7:40 p.m. Monday, according to reports. Deputies pulled over 42-year-old Hovan on Tampa Road just west of Forest Lakes Boulevard. The arrest affidavit alleges Hovan was asked to perform field sobriety tests that indicated he was impaired.  

Hovan was given a Breathalyzer which apparently showed that his blood-alcohol content level was 0.309 and 0.315, which is more than three times 0.08 – the level at which Florida law says a driver is impaired. 

Hovan was booked into the Pinellas County jail on a misdemeanor DUI charge and a felony charge of child neglect. The child suffered no harm from the incident. 

Hovan was released from jail Tuesday morning after posting $5,500 bail.

Hovan is a 10-year NFL alum who was first drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 2000. In 2005 he signed with the Bucs, and after playing five seasons he was released in 2010.  

Since his time in the NFL he has been an assistant coach with the University of South Florida and some other schools in the area. 

Hovan has been in trouble for DUI before. He was convicted of a DUI in 2015. In 2018 he was involved in a domestic abuse case. 

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Florida is a serious criminal offense on its own, however once you add a minor being present during the offense, the potential penalties will only be enhanced. Fines could be raised and you could be looking at increased time behind bars. The State implements these harsh consequences in an effort to deter citizens from placing themselves and any children at risk. 

To be clear: any crime involving a minor is taken very seriously by judges and juries, which includes a DUI offense where a child is present. There are steep penalties involved in cases like these, and you could be facing damage to your personal and professional reputation. You need to be ready for whatever the prosecution may try and use against you. That is why if you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI where a minor was present, you must act fast and protect your rights by contacting a criminal defense attorney. Our Tampa Bay DUI Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are ready and able to take on your case and help you understand exactly what you are up against. 

A DUI with a child in the car can result in numerous penalties. If this is your first offense, you could be looking at a fine between $1,000 and $2,000, up to 9 months in jail, 50 hours of community service, a driver’s license suspension of 6 months, DUI classes, vehicle impoundment, and the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device for 6 months. If this is your second offense, you could be facing a fine between $2,000 and $4,000, up to 1 year in jail, 50 hours of community service, a driver’s license suspension of 12 months, DUI classes, vehicle impoundment, and the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device for up to 2 years. If this is your third offense, then you could be facing a fine up to $5,000, up to 5 years in prison, 50 hours of community service, a driver’s license suspension of 10 years, DUI classes, vehicle impoundment, and the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device for up to 2 years. The amount of time between DUIs plays a pivotal role in how penalties are applied, and our Tampa DUI Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can make sure you understand how the laws apply to your specific case. 

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Tony La Russa, now the manager of the White Sox, has been officially charged with driving under the influence stemming from a February incident that happened in Phoenix. 

Charges were apparently filed Oct. 28, just a day before his position with the White Sox was announced. 

A White Sox spokesperson said that they knew of the 76-year-old’s DUI case when he was hired. 

Tampa, FL – DUI Defense Attorney Robert Whittel of Whittel & Melton has tried many jury trials and can speak with incredible context about the mistakes DUI lawyers make in defense of DUI charges. Although it’s true that Florida DUI Manslaughter and Florida DUI Serious Bodily Injury charges bring greater penalties, no matter the type of DUI case, no matter if filed in Tampa, Gainesville, Ocala, Clearwater or beyond, the elements of DUI in Florida are consistent.

To that end, DUI Attorney Robert Whittel gives us 3 mistakes that he has seen over the years in the defense of DUI charges in Florida.

(1) Visit the scene of the DUI Arrest. It seems obvious to someone in school or reading about DUI Defense strategy, but it is very common that attorneys hired, and certainly public defenders, never visit the scene of the arrest. Because a DUI arrest will often involve an accident, allegedly poor driving, a road side physical test and observation and also may involve very dark surroundings (if at night); visiting the scene will undoubtedly help the DUI Attorney with cross examination, but will also spark ideas regarding a defense strategy.

(2) Get the DUI Tow Slip. Very commonly a DUI arrest will include a towing of the client’s vehicle. When a vehicle is towed, law enforcement should be taking an inventory of the vehicle. This inventory could include not only the contents of the vehicle, but also the physical condition of the vehicle. In some cases the allegations of the DUI officers are inconsistent with the DUI Tow Slip.

(3) Did the officer have Probable Cause for the Arrest? On its face this seems like an obvious item, how could it be a mistake. Too often, DUI Defense Lawyers mistake the entire Arrest Form and all that it includes for what was actually the basis of the DUI Arrest. Put another way, think about what constitutes an actual arrest in Florida, when in the timeline did that occur and what information was the DUI arresting officer in possession of when that critical decision was made. It is very often the case that a DUI case is substantially based on information collected after the arrest, not before.

Florida DUI Attorney Robert Whittel and Whittel & Melton are ready to consult on DUI cases in Tampa, Clearwater, Gainesville, Ocala and surrounding jurisdictions. Please contact us today 866-608-5529 or email us info@theFLlawfirm.com today.

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A 68-year-old Haines City man was charged with his third DUI over the weekend after allegedly crashing a lawn mower into a Haines City Police Department vehicle.

The police department said that an officer was tending to a matter on Saturday when a man on a lawn mower crashed into the back of his patrol vehicle.

According to the report, the officer heard a loud noise and walked outside to find the accused on a lawn mower with an attached trailer and noticed minor damage to the rear of the police vehicle.

The man apparently admitted to hitting the police vehicle and said he was drunk. Police said his demeanor ranged from laughing to aggressive.

After failing to complete the field sobriety tests, according to police, the man was taken to the Haines City Police Department where they said he claimed that he had been poisoned by police and asked to be taken to a hospital.

The man was then transported to Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center in Davenport, where he provided a breath sample. Police said his blood-alcohol concentration was .241, which is more than three times the legal limit.

There was also cocaine is his system, according to the report, which he accused police of putting into his system.

Police said the man’s driver’s license has been suspended since March 1978 and that he has two previous DUI convictions, with the last one coming in 1987 in Osceola County.

Under Florida’s DUI laws, even a lawn mower is classified as a “motor vehicle.” You can essentially receive a DUI for being intoxicated while operating anything that moves. While it may be surprising, you can receive a DUI for boating under the influence, biking under the influence, operating a forklift or lawnmower under the influence, and even riding a horse under the influence.

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A breathalyzer that is able to determine if a driver smoked pot could be ready for use in select cities starting in the fall, according to a company developing the first-of-its-kind product.

With recreational weed now legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, California-based Hound Labs Inc. has created a marijuana-breathalyzer it says will make roads safer and hold drivers accountable. The company claims the device is hypersensitive, allowing it to pick up any THC — the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — potentially present on drivers’ breath.

Currently, officers who suspect a driver is impaired can only test the hunch with field sobriety tests. Blood, breath or urine samples could be taken to determine if a driver is high, but such tests can be inaccurate. Those tests also detect if the driver was high that day or week, rather than if they were high while operating the vehicle in that instance.

Tools such as Hound Labs’ alcohol-and-marijuana breathalyzer or Canadian company Cannabix Technologies Inc.’s THC breathalyzer aim to present an objective determination of recent marijuana use.

Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration above .08 percent are considered under the influence of alcohol or driving while impaired. Driving under the influence of marijuana is a subject that seems up for debate when it comes to determining impairment.

For Hound Labs’ breathalyzers, that qualification is marked by timing. Though the company’s breathalyzers can determine how much marijuana is in someone’s breath, the actual level of THC is not as relevant as recency of use for determining whether an individual is high, according to their research.

THC only stays in breath during the “peak window of impairment,” about one to two hours after smoking marijuana, according to Hound Labs. The level of THC found in breath samples drops to zero at three hours after smoking, the company’s research found.

When an individual blows into the breathalyzer, it can determine within a couple minutes whether there is alcohol, THC or both in the person’s system. Since THC is only present in someone’s breath during that peak two-hour window, the driver is considered impaired when it’s detected.

The breathalyzer would then display “Warning” if THC is detected and “Pass” if it is not.

It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs or any combination of these. A DUI marijuana charge is just as serious as a DUI charge involving alcohol, even if they are charged as misdemeanor offenses. With this type of conviction on your record, your ability to obtain employment may be limited, obtaining insurance will be difficult and your premiums will absolutely go up. If you are ever convicted of another DUI, the penalties attached to a conviction will likely be enhanced.

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The Real Housewives of New York City star Luann de Lesseps received a plea deal after drunkenly assaulting a Florida police officer and repeatedly threatening to kill him on December 23, 2017.

In exchange for prosecutors dropping the felony charge of resisting an officer with violence, the former Countess was required to follow the guidelines of her probation, which included not drinking and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

For the second time this year, her New York probation officer has filed documents stating Luann is not taking her probation seriously, and recently failed a test for alcohol consumption.

In a Compact Action Request form sent to authorities in Florida from the state of New York, it reveals that Luann tested positive for alcohol on April 22. Luann admitted that “she had 2 glasses of mimosas after a performance [of her burlesque show] in Chicago.”

After she failed her test, the 53-year-old reality star was “offered the opportunity to immediately enroll in outpatient treatment,” but Luann insisted that her current touring schedule would interfere with her treatment participation.

Luann was also “given the option to be fitted with alcohol ankle monitoring device,” but she said the device would be too “intrusive” while performing.

The conflicts between Luann’s work and travel requirements and her probation stipulations are what motivated the state of New York to inquire what Florida would like them to do about the situation.

The Florida Department of Corrections responded by summarizing the situation before presenting the following conclusion:

This is the second notification of other state violation that has been submitted. The subject has failed to provide sufficient documentation of completed AA meetings which she was ordered to complete 2 AA meetings per week. At the time of this writing [April 24], only 5 have been received. It appears to affiant that the subject is not serious about her sobriety or the orders of this Court. As stated on previous notification, the subject has used her unlimited travel as a reason to be noncompliant with her conditions of supervision.

The judge has decided that further action is required. His recent instructions were to “provide Affidavit and violation report, schedule VOP (Notice to Appear) hearing, and instruct offender to return to Florida for hearing.”

Qualifying for probation means the system is giving you a second chance. Breaking the conditions of your probation is a serious matter that could result in grave consequences. Any hearings you attend will not be the same as a criminal trial, because in the eyes of the law you have already admitted guilt, so you will be treated as such. This is why you need the help of a Florida DUI Probation Violation Attorney at Whittel & Melton. We will do everything in our power to keep you out of jail.

Probation is an alternative sentence structure to incarceration after you have been found guilty of a crime. To successfully complete the program you must adhere to the guidelines put in place by the sentencing court or the parole board. If you violate any conditions of your probation, you could be looking at jail time.

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Actor Tim Williams, who is best known for being the face of German discount travel website Trivago, has been arrested for allegedly driving drunk in Houston, Texas.

On Wednesday around 3:15 p.m., Williams, 52, was allegedly found passed out at the wheel of a car, according to reports.

Police say Williams’ foot was on the brake and he was in a moving lane of traffic.

After being stopped, police gave Williams a sobriety test, which he allegedly failed.

Williams has since been charged with driving while intoxicated. According to court documents, a mental health evaluation has been requested for Williams.

The actor was later released on a $100 bond and is scheduled to appear in court on April 17.

A DUI arrest can have serious consequences on your driving privileges and on your criminal record. If convicted, you could face severe penalties and hefty fines worth thousands of dollars, not to mention jail time, depending on the circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest.

Florida DUI laws change constantly. Therefore, if you or someone you know has been charged with DUI, it is absolutely vital that you seek aggressive DUI defense. Our Florida DUI Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have the knowledge and skill to help you fight a DUI conviction.

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Most Americans are familiar with the retail day “Black Friday,” the hugely discounted shopping event the day after Thanksgiving when consumers flock to stores across the country. But not as many people are aware of “Black Wednesday,” or “Blackout Wednesday.”

This is the evening before Thanksgiving, which has become one of the biggest party nights of the year. With that said, there are more drunk driving arrests this day than even Christmas or New Year’s in some areas.

College students and young professionals typically head home for Thanksgiving, making it a convenient time to catch up with old friends. Most people get Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving week off from work, so this makes drinking more appealing as there is plenty of time to beat a hangover with ease.

Crowds aren’t the only thing Black Wednesday has in common with According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in four out of the last five years for which data is available, Thanksgiving weekend surpassed the New Year’s holiday in the number of traffic fatalities related to alcohol consumption.

Black Wednesday is just the start of a heavy DUI enforcement period that runs through New Year’s Day. Every year, Florida and other states hold formalized drunk driving crackdowns through the holidays. The nationwide Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign runs from Dec. 14, 2018 through Jan. 1, 2019 this year.

As you kick off the holiday season on Black Wednesday, our Florida DUI Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton urge you to remember that planning a sober ride home is always the best idea. However, if you do find yourself in trouble with the law after having one too many, we will be here to help you through this stressful time.

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