Articles Posted in Florida

Prosecutors have reduced a DUI charge against country star Michael Ray, known for his hit singles such as “Kiss You in the Morning” and “Real Men Love Jesus,” to reckless driving after concluding Eustis police didn’t conduct field-sobriety tests properly.

Eustis police failed to give correct test instructions to Ray. Police also failed to inform him of their criminal investigation or provide corroborating body camera footage.

Ray, who turns 30 on April 29, is charged with one count of reckless driving and one count of felony marijuana possession after the singer admitted THC “hashish” oil found on him during his arrest belonged to him.

Eustis police responded to a call 4 a.m. Dec. 20 at the McDonald’s on Bay Street and discovered Ray driving an orange 2012 Jeep Wrangler that had bumped into a blue Scion in front of it in the fast-food restaurant’s drive-through.

Officers claims he had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech,  and stumbled while walking and smelled of alcohol. But officers failed to tell Ray they were switching from an accident investigation to a criminal investigation, making all of Ray’s comments made at the scene inadmissible in court.

They also failed to give the proper instructions for field-sobriety tests, two of which Ray failed.

No police body cams recorded Ray performing the field tests because the footage cuts off the lower half of his body and does not provide a stable view.

Mistakes can certainly be made during any arrest, and that includes a DUI arrest. When defending a DUI charge, exposing police errors can have the most successful results, as this case shows.

A police officer must have a reasonable suspicion of misconduct in order to pull a car over. Once the driver is stopped, the officer must suspect that the individual is intoxicated before administering a field sobriety test, otherwise any test administered is considered unjustified. A further investigation of the police report could show flaws in how the tests were administered or allude to any discrepancies.

A DUI is a crime and beating the charge requires legal help.  Our Lake County DUI Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are here to assist you with your DUI matter. We can help you take charge of the situation and establish a powerful defense strategy with the hopes of achieving the most successful outcome.

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A 36-year-old Volusia County sheriff’s deputy was charged with DUI Saturday night after an off-duty crash in his personal vehicle in Daytona Beach.The man faces several charges, according to Sheriff’s Office, including DUI, two counts of DUI with property damage and three counts of DUI with injuries.

The crash was reported just after 7 p.m. at Williamson Boulevard and Dunn Avenue.

Three vehicles were involved, and three people were transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries as a result of the crash.

The sheriff’s deputy was not among those injured.

The Daytona Beach Police Department investigated the crash.

The sheriff’s deputy was placed on administrative leave with pay effective immediately.

A DUI arrest must be taken seriously, especially when injuries have occurred from a crash. Florida is one of the most aggressive states in the nation in promoting laws aimed at combating the devastating impact of drunk driving. Prosecutors seek harsh penalties for DUI offenders. If you or someone you know is arrested for DUI resulting in serious bodily injury, you need a Florida DUI Defense Lawyer on your side to help mitigate the consequences of your arrest.

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New Year’s Eve is a time to celebrate the start of a new year! While we want you to start your New Year off with a bang, we don’t want 2018 to start behind bars.

Alcohol-consumption at celebrations is a major contributing factor in increased drinking and driving and vehicle collisions during the holidays. Our Florida DUI Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton have compiled a list of simple ways to avoid a DUI arrest this NYE.

  1. Don’t drink and drive! Buzzed driving is still considered drunk driving and you don’t have to be at Florida’s legal Blood Alcohol Content limit of .08 to get arrested. Slight impairment can be reached with just one or two drinks, especially when you factor in your size and weight and how much alcohol you’re consuming in each drink. If you’re  under the influence of alcohol and get behind the wheel, you could be charged with a DUI. Police officers prove impairment through observations like the odor of alcohol, bloodshot or watery eyes, slurred speech, swaying or field sobriety tests. This means that a prosecutor does not need breath or blood results to bring DUI charges against you.
  2. Designate a sober driver. Choose a reliable person who either doesn’t drink or is responsible enough not to take even one sip of alcohol to be a designated driver. If you don’t have one, call a cab, use Lyft or Uber or any other means of safe transportation to get home in one piece.
  3. Stay the night at your friend’s party. Before you start drinking, ask if it’s okay to stay the night. Most hosts would rather have a house full of overnight party guests than have a bunch of drunk people on the road. We think waking up on your friend’s couch is much better than waking up in the drunk tank with DUI charges pending. Another Option is to book a room at a nearby hotel.

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If you are like millions of other Americans, you will likely be traveling somewhere over the Thanksgiving holiday. According to the annual AAA Travel Forecast, nearly 51 million people across the country will be traveling 50 miles or further. More congestion on the roadways is pretty much inevitable.

The holiday season is notorious for higher incidents of drunk driving. In fact, an average of 728 people will be injured or killed in a drunk driving accident daily from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day  according to the Center for Disease Control.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is known as “Blackout Wednesday.” Thanksgiving Eve is quite popular for binge drinking due to the fact that most people do not have to work on Thursday. On that some note, college students will be heading home for a break with friends.

Everyone can benefit from following these safety tips, regardless of how far you will be traveling over the holidays:

  • Visibility is reduced at night, so try to travel during daylight hours.
  • Stay on top of traffic updates and anticipate heavy traffic areas. Be prepared for delays and use a GPS to find alternative routes if necessary.
  • Make frequent stops and rotate drivers to avoid fatigue.
  • Never drive if you are intoxicated. Designate a driver or make alternative plans.

Tampa Bay law enforcement will be out in full swing over the Thanksgiving holiday. Patrols will be increased and sobriety checkpoints will be set up in certain areas.

The simple solution to avoiding a DUI is to avoid driving when intoxicated. However, you can be stopped for other reasons. Even if you are under the legal limit, having had a drink could mean that you are subject to closer scrutiny. Additionally, driving under the influence of drugs or prescription medications can impair your driving. Be mindful of more than just alcohol this holiday season.

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18-year-old actor Ethan Cutkosky, who plays Carl Gallagher on the Showtime series “Shameless,” was arrested and booked for DUI Thursday in Los Angeles.

According to reports, Cutkosky was driving his orange BMW at around 10:30 PM and began to straddle the traffic lanes, which prompted cops to pull him over.

He allegedly performed poorly on field sobriety tests and was arrested on the spot.

It’s unclear if the DUI was drug or alcohol related.

The state of Florida takes a pretty hard stance on DUI arrests involving a person under the age of 21. In fact, the state has a “zero tolerance policy,” meaning a young person charged with DUI can face severe sanctions including jail time or incarceration, probation, fines, court costs, community service hours, and a driver’s license suspension.

For those under the age of 21 charged with DUI, Florida has enacted a zero tolerance legal limit of .02. This legal limit means that even one drink can put a driver over the legal limit.

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Halloween is today, so our Tampa Bay DUI Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton wanted to make sure we warn all residents to refrain from drinking and driving. A DUI arrest is no treat.

Police will be on the lookout for adults partying during the Halloween festivities. You may even notice an increase in police patrols and sobriety checkpoints in an effort to catch people driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Increased patrols and DUI checkpoints can yield huge results for police like DUI arrests, traffic citations and impounding vehicles. Whether you are stopped while driving or at a DUI checkpoint, it is very important for you to be aware of your legal options and rights. A DUI conviction may result in a loss of driving privileges, jail and fines.

When you are facing a DUI arrest on Halloween or at any time, it is vital that you act immediately and contact a Tampa Bay DUI Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton. During your free consultation with us, we will review all your legal options and make you aware of what needs to be done first. For instance, you have 10 days from the day of your arrest to contact the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV. A hearing must be scheduled to retain your driving privileges until the matter is decided by the hearing officer, otherwise, your license will be suspended.

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A 32-year-old man was arrested on multiple charges early Friday after police said he crashed a U-Haul moving truck into a St. Pete Beach hotel.

According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the man drove the UHaul truck into the Hotel Zamora located at 3701 Gulf Boulevard just after midnight.  

Officials said the man then drove off from the area. He was arrested about two hours later.

When deputies arrived there was substantial structural damage to a hotel parking garage drop ceiling. Witnesses provided deputies with a description of the moving truck.

Shortly afterward, deputies stopped a 10 foot U-Haul truck with roof damage, driving north on Gulf Winds Drive at 64th Avenue in St. Pete Beach.

Officials said the man told them he attended a party at Hotel Zamora. After the party, the man was driving his passenger to her car in the parking garage when he struck the parking garage drop ceiling with the roof of the U-Haul truck.

The man apparently said he fled the scene and hid the truck in the area until deputies left the area. He said he was in the process of moving to Miami.

He is facing charges of leaving the scene of crash with property damage, one count of DUI, and one count of possession of a controlled substance (cocaine).

Operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol can lead to life-changing penalties. These charges are further complicated when a crash occurs resulting in property damage. A Tampa Bay DUI Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can make sure you understand your legal options and what to expect from the criminal justice system. We can walk you through every stage of the process, working with you to aggressively pursue your desired outcome.

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The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, along with Clearwater Police, Gulfport Police, Largo Police, St. Pete Police, and Tarpon Springs Police, conducted a DUI Wolf Pack Sunday night.

The DUI Wolf Pack was conducted throughout Pinellas County in an effort to reduce DUI related injuries, deaths, and property damage.

The results of the DUI Wolf Pack are:

Criminal Charges:

12 DUI

3 Possession of a Controlled Substance (Misdemeanor)

2 Possession of a Controlled Substance (Felony)

2 Driving While License Suspended and/or Revoked with Knowledge (Misdemeanor)

1 Resisting Arrest Without Violence

1 Refusal to Submit to Breath Testing

Total Charges – 21

Citations:

36 Speeding

1 No Valid DL

14 Driving While License Suspended and/or revoked with Knowledge

8 No Valid Insurance

1 Violation Driver’s License Restrictions

1 Open Container

33 Other Non-Moving Violations

27 Other Moving Violations

Total Citations – 121

The goal of a Wolf Pack is to educate drivers and create public awareness about the dangers of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and any chemical or controlled substances.

“Wolf Pack” is the name the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office has given these enhanced DUI operations. Their increased patrols were undoubtedly due to the Labor Day holiday. Any time there is  a long holiday weekend, it is safe to assume that police will be conducting DUI checkpoints in an effort to arrest any impaired drivers.

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New toxicology reports released show Tiger Woods had pain, anxiety and sleep medications in his system as well as THC when he was arrested on Memorial Day in Palm Beach County, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

Woods told law enforcement at the time of his arrest that he was taking the painkiller Vicodin after a recent back surgery and also had a prescription for Xanax.

He was found asleep on the side of a road in his 2015 Mercedes-Benz with damage to the front and rear driver’s side tires.

Last week Woods entered a DUI first-offender program.

His arraignment is set for Oct. 25.

Driving under the influence of marijuana is an issue that is raising concerns throughout the country, including Florida. Detecting marijuana in the system is much different than the procedures for alcohol testing. You can read more about that here. Detecting marijuana involves blood or urine testing to discover if THC, the ingredient that purportedly contains psychoactive qualities, in the body.

Proving marijuana intoxication can be somewhat of a challenge for prosecutors as law enforcement is divided on how to efficiently detect a person who is impaired by marijuana. Where a field sobriety test may determine alcohol impairment, it could be inefficient in determining marijuana intoxication. A person who is impaired by alcohol may show signs through slurred speech, slower reaction time, or uncoordinated movements.Someone who is under the influence of marijuana may not have any tell-tale signs. For these reasons, the laws that apply to alcohol intoxication may not be appropriate for marijuana intoxication.

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A fiery crash on the Selmon Expressway killed a child and two adults, and led to the arrest of a 29-year-old Brandon woman for DUI.

The woman is accused of leaving the scene of the crash and she faces a litany of charges after she apparently lost control of her car near the Bay to Bay and Euclid exit and “touched off a chain reaction of crashes,” leading to the deaths of two adults and one child, according to police.

Witnesses allege they saw the woman driving at a “high rate of speed,” eastbound on the expressway. Reports indicate they said she tried to pass at least two vehicles going in the same direction, lost control of her vehicle and slammed into the back of a Hyundai occupied by the three victims. The Hyundai then spun out of control through the grass median and into the westbound lanes where it was struck by a Jeep and an Infinity SUV.  The vehicle came to a final rest in the westbound lanes and burst into flames, according to police.

The woman is accused of leaving the scene. Law enforcement caught up with her shortly after the crash when her car broke down near Willow Avenue and Platt Street.

According to reports, her speech was slurred, and police said she admitted to using anxiety medications Lexapro and Ativan before getting behind the wheel, and she allegedly failed a field sobriety test after demonstrating clues of impairment.

She was taken into custody and transported to Tampa General Hospital where her blood was taken for alcohol testing. According to police, once they administered the blood tests, the woman tried to remove her vials of blood and hide them in her underwear, which lead them to charging her with tampering with physical evidence.

The woman has been charged with three counts of DUI manslaughter, DUI with serious bodily injury, leaving the scene of a crash with death, leaving the scene of a crash with serious bodily injury and tampering with physical evidence.

Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime. When added to driving under the influence, charges and penalties will become escalated. While a simple DUI may only be a misdemeanor, the offense can become more serious when there are additional factors, like fleeing the scene of the accident.

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