Articles Posted in Pinellas County

A Clearwater official was arrested last weekend after being accused of being drunk while driving a golf cart.

According to police, the man, who is the city’s community redevelopment agency director, drove the golf cart into outdoor tables at the Clear Sky Restaurant on Cleveland Street.

Authorities said the 38-year-old then grabbed a person by the neck who was filming the incident. The man then allegedly left the scene.

He was stopped a short distance later and eventually taken to the Pinellas County Jail but not booked.

Instead, he was entered into an Adult Pre-Arrest Diversion Program early Sunday, which allows adults arrested for low-level crimes to avoid jail by completing community service, counseling or drug treatment.

That would allow him to complete community service instead of jail.

However, the man has been placed on administrative leave. He has worked for the city since 2016.

A golf cart is considered a vehicle under Florida law, so driving one while drunk could result in DUI charges. In Florida, we are lucky to enjoy mild weather throughout the year, which enables many Floridians to take advantage of golfing in the winter months.  A round of golf with friends can include a few alcoholic beverages along the way, which could lead to legal consequences.

While most golf courses are on private property, driving a golf cart while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can result in DUI charges. Because a golf cart is considered a vehicle under Florida law, this means that you can actually be arrested after a day on the golf course for operating the golf cart while under the influence. Even if you weren’t on the golf course, many Floridians tool around in golf carts as an alternate mode of transportation, and you can still be arrested for DUI on a golf cart if you were outside a golf course.

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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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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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The 4th of July is almost here, so it is important to bring up DUI arrests. The holiday is celebrated with barbecues, picnics, fireworks, and alcohol. Because this is a peak time for drinking and driving, law enforcement throughout the Tampa Bay area will be stepping up patrols over the holiday weekend.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has dubbed July 4th as the deadliest day for Americans on the road. Alcohol is a factor in 41 percent of 4th of July traffic deaths. July 3 and July 5 also have high numbers of alcohol-related collisions.

This year, the 4th falls on a Tuesday, so many people will be celebrating a three day or even four day weekend.

With the increased likelihood of a deadly accident, you will see more DUI patrols and checkpoints starting as early as Friday, June 30 and continuing through Wednesday, July 5. Please keep this in mind if you plan to get behind the wheel after drinking. Our Tampa Bay DUI Lawyers at Whittel & Melton encourage you to plan ahead and secure a safe ride home before you start drinking. Designate a driver to stay sober, call a taxi, or use Uber or Lyft.

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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 Florida police officer is facing a second DUI charge after he was apparently found asleep inside his car.

St. Petersburg police said the 36-year-old was booked into jail early Tuesday and was being held on a $500 bond.

In December 2009, authorities claim the man drove over a concrete median and struck a sedan. The man apparently kept driving and hit another vehicle.

No one was harmed in either crash. Records indicate the man’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit to drive in Florida. He was convicted on charges of DUI and leaving a crash scene.

Prosecutors view DUI charges quite seriously in the state of Florida. This means that it is equally important for you to take these charges seriously and speak with a Florida DUI Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton.

In Florida, the consequences attached to a second DUI conviction depend on whether the conviction is within 5 years or outside of 5 years of the previous conviction. If the DUI arrest occurs outside of 5 years from any prior DUI conviction, then the DUI will have the following penalties:

  • maximum jail time of 9 months instead of 6 months
  • fines between $1,000 to $2,000 instead of $500 to $1,000
  • an ignition interlock device must be installed for one year

No minimum jail time is required, however the prosecution will likely push for some jail time. The most serious consequence of a second DUI conviction that occurs outside of five years is that you will not be eligible for a hardship license after a second DUI conviction.

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Police said a woman was arrested and charged with DUI after she drove the wrong way on U.S. 19.

The incident occurred early Sunday.

Police have video of the incident and claim the 43-year-old woman was driving north in the southbound lanes near Klosterman Road. She apparently passed an officer, who turned around and stopped her.

Before she was stopped, police believe she hit the bumper of a vehicle that tried to avoid her.

The man and woman inside that vehicle were not harmed.

Fighting DUI charges can be an uphill struggle. An overzealous prosecutor may seek maximum penalties, which can cause you much stress and hardship.

Because of this, if you have had the misfortune of being charged with DUI, it is always a good idea to seek the advocacy of an experienced attorney. It is very important that you understand all of your legal options. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, you may want to seek a plea agreement or fight the charges in court. Our Tampa Bay DUI Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can advise you on your best course of action and make sure that your rights are protected.

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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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Charges against a 31-year-old St. Petersburg man accused in a fatal DUI crash have been upgraded now to DUI manslaughter.

The man faces these charges after the death of a woman who passed away late Monday at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg as a result of her injuries suffered in a traffic crash last weekend.

According to Pinellas Park police, the 34-year-old St. Petersburg woman and her boyfriend were driving just before 1 a.m. Sunday in the 4000 block of Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park when they were struck by a 2016 Toyota Corolla.

Deputies say the 31-year-old man  was drunk when he drove through a red light and struck the woman’s 2003 Toyota Camry.

The woman her boyfriend were rushed to the hospital, where the woman later died. The man remains in critical condition.

In addition to DUI manslaughter, the man is also facing two charges of DUI causing serious bodily injury.

Pinellas Park police said surveillance video from a nearby restaurant captured the crash.

The man refused field sobriety tests at the scene of the crash.

Pinellas Park police did force a blood draw on the man.

DUI manslaughter and DUI causing serious bodily injury cases are quite complex as there are numerous factors that must be addressed immediately. Our Tampa DUI Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are former prosecutors, so we know what types of issues these cases raised. We can examine the evidence with the hopes of answering the following questions:  

  • What was the cause of the accident?
  • Is there any proof of who was actually driving the vehicle?
  • Was your blood alcohol content above or below the legal limit? Was a blood, breath or urine test lawfully obtained by law enforcement?
  • Did your negligence cause the death of another person?
  • Were there any witnesses to the accident?
  • What do experts and accident reconstructionists have to say about the evidence?

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