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Articles Posted in Hillsborough County

Despite the increasingly legal use of cannabis in many states, cops still don’t have the equivalent of a reliable alcohol breathalyzer or blood test — a chemically based way of estimating what the drug is doing in the brain. Though a blood test exists that can detect some of marijuana’s components, there is no widely accepted, standardized amount in the breath or blood that gives police or courts or anyone else a good sense of who is impaired.

A number of scientists nationally are working hard to create just such a chemical test and standard — something to replace the behavioral indicators that cops have to base their judgments on now.

Aside from being a bureaucratic mess, coming up with a standardized blood or breath test is also a really tricky chemistry problem because of the properties of the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

In states like Colorado, there is a THC blood test that law enforcement can use to show “presumed” impairment. If a person has more than 5 nanograms of delta-9-THC per milliliter of blood, a court or jury can infer that they are impaired, according to Colorado law (this is called “permissible inference” in legalese).

Turns out it can be a lot harder to chemically determine from a blood or breath test that someone is high than to determine from such a test that they’re drunk.

Ethanol, the chemical in alcoholic drinks that dulls thinking and reflexes is small and dissolves in water. Because humans are mostly water, it gets distributed fairly quickly and easily throughout the body and is usually cleared within a matter of hours. But THC, the main chemical in cannabis that produces some of the same symptoms, dissolves in fat. That means the length of time it lingers in the body can differ from person to person even more than alcohol — influenced by things like gender, amount of body fat, frequency of use, and the method and type of cannabis product consumed.

In one study, researchers had 30 frequent marijuana users stay at a research facility for a month without any access to drugs of any sort and repeatedly tested their blood for evidence of cannabis.

The participants’ bodies had built up stores of THC that were continuing to slowly leach out, even though they had abstained from using marijuana for a full month. In some of those who regularly smoked large amounts of pot, researchers could measure blood THC above the 5-nanogram level for several days after they had stopped smoking.

Conversely, another study showed that people who weren’t regular consumers could smoke a joint right in front of researchers and yet show no evidence of cannabis in their blood.

So, in addition to being invasive and cumbersome, the blood test can be misleading and a poor indicator of whatever is happening in the brain.

Recently, some scientists have turned their attention to breath, in hopes of creating something useful.

A number of companies, like Cannabix Technologies and Hound Labs, are in the process of developing breath detection devices. Tara Lovestead is providing the data that will help relate the concentration of THC detected in the breath to what’s in the blood. Even though blood provides an incomplete and indirect inkling of what’s happening in the brain, it’s the measure law enforcement turns to as a benchmark.

That, too, is a chemist’s nightmare. THC and other cannabinoids — the chemicals that cause a high — are really squirrelly. They degrade quickly and appear only in very tiny amounts in the breath.

With the legalization of pot in many states, it is clear where the future is heading. That means there will be more cases of driving under the influence of marijuana. This means DUI lawyers will now have to familiarize themselves with how marijuana metabolizes in the body in addition to alcohol.

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A Lakeland man was arrested Saturday night on DUI charges after a hit and run and driving the wrong-way.

Troopers believe the 36-year-old was driving recklessly westbound on I-4 around 10 p.m. Saturday.

When troopers attempted to conduct a traffic stop on the Dodge Journey, they said the man drove through the median and cable barrier into the eastbound lanes of I-4, still traveling westbound.

Troopers claim the man then stopped his vehicle westbound on the inside shoulder of eastbound I-4, and when they approached him, they said he drove off to the outside shoulder and stopped.

Troopers then arrested and charged the man with DUI, DUI property damage, leaving the scene of a crash, and driving on the wrong side of a divided highway.

He was transported to the Polk County jail.

Leaving the scene of an accident (hit-and-run) is a crime. When coupled with DUI, charges and penalties can be more severe. While a Florida DUI may only be a misdemeanor on its own, the offense can be enhanced when there are aggravating factors, such as leaving the scene of the accident. Anytime a driver is involved in an accident, they are required to stop.

Just because you have been charged with DUI does not mean you are guilty. Our Florida DUI Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton know the many faults and flaws that can occur during a traffic stop or during a DUI investigation. Law enforcement officers do not always use the proper procedures when stopping vehicles.

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A Seminole man faces a charge of DUI after the Florida Highway Patrol claims he was driving the wrong way on Interstate 275 for nearly eight miles in St. Petersburg early Monday morning.

According to troopers, the 26-year-old was driving northbound in the southbound lanes of the highway around 4 a.m. and made it about eight miles without crashing before he was pulled over by St. Petersburg Police.

The man was eventually pulled over near Roosevelt Boulevard after he was initially seen driving the wrong direction at the 5th Avenue North exit, troopers said.

He faces charges of DUI and possession of a controlled substance and is being held at the Pinellas County Jail with bail set at $2,500.

When you are charged with DUI, you must take these charges seriously. There are possible defenses to beat these charges, but you need legal help, and the sooner the better. A Tampa Bay DUI Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can review the facts of your case and collect any pertinent evidence to assist with your case. We will also make sure that police followed proper protocols when making your arrest. If any procedural errors did occur, we can work to have the charges against you dropped.

 

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A Brandon woman has been arrested Tuesday on DUI charges for the second time in five months.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office claims the 36-year-old hit another vehicle while traveling on Lakewood Drive.

Deputies believe the woman was attempting to turn right on Thomas Street when she struck the front of a 2014 Mazda 3. The woman was allegedly driving a 2016 Jeep Wrangler and caused $800 in damage to the Mazda, according to police.

Deputies allege the woman had slurred speech, glassy eyes, unstable balance, and was emitting a strong odor of alcohol.

During field sobriety tests, police claim the woman showed “extreme” signs of impairment.

She was arrested and charged with driving under the influence with property damage, along with a charge of a DUI over .15 blood alcohol level.

Reports indicate the woman was arrested on the same charges July 29.

DUI charges in Tampa Bay are no joke. The consequences of a conviction are pretty serious and prosecutors will do everything they can to persuade the judge to enforce maximum penalties. With that said, a second DUI conviction in a 5 year time span carries the following punishments:

  • Fine: Up to $2,000. With BAL of .15 or higher: Up to $4,000.
  • Jail: Up to 9 months. With BAL of .15 or higher: Up to 12 months. If this is a second conviction within 5 years, mandatory imprisonment of at least 10 days.
  • Vehicle impoundment for 30 days.
  • License Revocation: Minimum 5 years revocation. May be eligible for hardship reinstatement after 1 year.

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As you may or may not know, Labor Day weekend is right around the corner. This means a long weekend and gatherings with family and friends. While we want everyone to have fun, be aware that a drunk driving crackdown is currently underway in Tampa.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’ campaign “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” is in full effect through September 5th this year, spreading safety awareness and increasing law enforcement presence to try to prevent drunk drivers.

With that said, here are some staggering drunk driving facts from the NHTSA to note:

  • A drunk driver injures someone in a collision about every 2 minutes.
  • A drunk driver kills someone in a tragic wreck every 52 minutes.
  • 2 in every 3 people in the U.S. will be part of a drunk driving accident at some point in their lives – either causing or being the victim in a crash.

Our Tampa DUI Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton want everyone to stay safe over the holiday weekend. As you get ready to celebrate, please heed the following advice to avoid a drunk driving tragedy.

  • Get a DD who will stay sober all day/night ahead of time, so you do not have to worry about how to get home.
  • If you are hosting a party and serving alcohol, keep numbers of taxis on hand, or urge people to use a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft, and do your best to not let intoxicated people get behind the wheel.
  • If you will be driving, stay sober and buckle up. Wearing your seatbelt can reduce your chances of being injured (and killed) by more than 40 percent if you end up being involved in a collision with a drunk driver.

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A DUI is probably the worst way to celebrate the Fourth of July. The sad truth is that many people will make bad drinking and driving choices over America’s birthday weekend.

Our Tampa DUI Defense Lawyers want to remind drivers of the consequences of choosing to get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

  1. DUIs Increase Over the Fourth of July

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 10,322 fatalities involving drunk drivers in all of 2012, which accounted for almost one-third of the total motor vehicle traffic deaths that year. From 2008 to 2012, 765 people died in Fourth of July DUI crashes, which makes up roughly 40 percent of traffic fatalities during the five-year period.

  1. Drunk Drivers Are Usually Out At Night

Once the sun sets, the dangers of a DUI increase significantly. According to NHTSA, drivers involved in deadly crashes on July 4, 2012, had rates of impairment 2.5 times higher at night than during the day. With that said, if you have been partying all day and night, you may want to sleep off your buzz and drive home in the morning. You can also use a DD, cab or Lyft or Uber to get home safe and sound and DUI free.

  1. You Will See Many DUI Checkpoints

Every year, Tampa and all other cities throughout Florida and the rest of the United States set up DUI checkpoints to catch drunk drivers during the Fourth of July holiday. Just know that these stops are legal, and you could be stopped at any time without any cause.

  1. If You Are Arrested, Be Prepared To Wait

Holiday weekends mean long weekends for the court system as well, so if you are arrested at the beginning of the three-day Fourth of July weekend you may not stand before a judge until Tuesday. If you can’t make bail, you may have to spend some time in police custody after a DUI arrest, which is never a great way to spend a Fourth of July weekend.

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Former Nickelodeon star Drake Bell pleaded not guilty today to his second DUI charge.

Bell was arrested in Glendale on Dec. 21, 2015, according to reports from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors allege that Bell was seen driving erratically on San Fernando Road.

The actor also allegedly refused to take a sobriety test.

At his arraignment today, Bell pleaded not guilty. He is due for a pretrial hearing on August 5.

In 2010, Bell was convicted of driving under the influence in San Diego.

Because this is his second charge within a 10 year period, Bell could potentially face 365 days in county jail if convicted. Bell, who submitted proof of attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous classes, is currently out of jail.

With a second DUI charge in the state of Florida, the stakes go up significantly. If this is your second offense, you probably know what to expect in court. Our Florida DUI Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton know how scary these charges can be and we understand your fears regarding your future. Florida judges do not go lightly on DUI offenders, particularly repeat offenders.

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Cinco de Mayo is viewed as an American drinking holiday, just like St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Halloween. On the fifth of May, there is usually a rise in DUI arrests due to local law enforcement officers cracking down on drunk drivers using DUI checkpoints. If you have found yourself facing DUI charges, it is best to speak with a Florida DUI Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible so that you can better understand your legal rights.

We understand how to help you build the strongest possible case for DUI charges. We will start by collecting and analyzing the facts surrounding your case, including why the police stopped you in the first place and how they tested your blood alcohol content level.

Did you know that Breathalyzers can malfunction? Police can even make errors when it comes to the proper methods for administering these tests. A further investigation into the testing procedures could show that the equipment used may not have been maintained or calibrated properly. Let us help you mount the strongest possible defense for the specific DUI charges you are facing.

When it comes to DUI cases, it is important to act fast as there are deadlines for filing paperwork, and if these documents are not filled out correctly, this could weaken your chances of achieving the best possible outcome. Even if you are facing a first- time DUI arrest, you could still be looking at possible jail time. Prosecutors fight quite aggressively to enforce the maximum punishments on DUI offenders. As former prosecutors, we know what techniques the State will attempt to bring against you and can counter their attacks accordingly.

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St. Patrick’s Day is here! This holiday celebrates Irish heritage with food, green attire, music, dancing and, often, the consumption of alcohol. According to reports from the National Highway Safety Administration, St. Patrick’s Day sees one of the biggest increases in drunk driving arrests and accidents compared to the rest of the year. In fact, during the 2014 St. Patrick’s Day holiday period, more than 28 percent of all motor vehicle crash fatalities involved drunk drivers. Moreover, from 2010 to 2014, nearly three-fourths of the drunk-driving fatalities during this holiday period involved drivers who had blood alcohol contents (BACs) above the 0.08 limit. Of those crashes, 266 resulted in death.

If you are arrested for a DUI in Florida, you can face very harsh consequences. For a first offense, you could potentially serve time behind bars along with heavy fines, probation, suspension of your license and even the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device. DUIs that involve bodily injury or death are even more serious and carry even more severe consequences.

The increased number of drunk drivers on the road on St. Patrick’s Day not only leads to an increased risk of becoming involved in an accident, but also an increased chance of being arrested. Law enforcement is well aware that holidays lead to more DUIs. Because of this, they increase patrols and set up DUI checkpoints in hopes of catching anyone drunk behind the wheel. They are ready to make arrests, so be aware of this as you are out celebrating.

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If you have had one too many drinks and can’t drive home New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, AAA will give you and your car a ride home.

Through its “Tow to Go” program, which is geared towards limiting the number of drunken drivers on the road by providing free lifts on a tow truck, the company is offering free rides throughout Florida through New Year’s Day.

“Tow to Go is basically a safety net or a last resort for people who don’t have a plan in place when they are away from their home and celebrating,” said Tow to Go program spokesman Matt Nasworthy.

Those who may need a lift do not have to be AAA members, but the service is offered on the availability of AAA drivers and tow trucks.

If you need a ride, the service is confidential and a tow truck driver will take you to a safe location within a 10-mile radius of your location.

The rides are intended to be a last resort for people who do not have a safe way to get home. AAA recommends planning ahead and selecting a designated driver or using a cab before calling for a tow.

The program is funded by Anheuser-Busch Wholesalers, who have co-sponsored the program since its inception.

To request a free tow and ride from AAA, call 855-286-9246.

The program has been offered since 1998 in Florida, and has provided more than 24,000 rides to impaired drivers.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Florida had the third highest number of DUI-related fatalities in the nation in 2012. If you are found to be under the influence of alcohol and are in an accident, in addition to harsh criminal penalties, you could be held liable for all of the costs resulting from the collision. If a fatality does occur, you could be found at-fault in a potential wrongful death lawsuit along with the criminal consequences.

The average cost of a first time DUI can range up to $10,000, including fines, legal defense, and auto insurance increases. If you are going to be out celebrating this New Year’s Eve, be smart and refrain from drinking and driving.

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