Articles Posted in Pinellas County

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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Drinking and driving in the great state of Florida has some pretty steep consequences.

Wallet Hub compiled a ranking of the strictest and most lenient states in the U.S. with DUI penalties and Florida took the No. 14 spot.

The strictest state in the country is Arizona, followed by Georgia, Alaska, Oklahoma and Nebraska while South Dakota, the District of Columbia, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Vermont were the most lenient.

According to the site, the data was found by examining 15 categories including minimum jail time, minimum fines, and average insurance rate increase after an arrest. The overall findings showed that the average fine for a first DUI is $347. Wallet Hub also reports that 92 percent of states “require offenders to equip their vehicles with Ignition Interlock devices after DUI.”

In Florida, there is no minimum jail time sentence for a first-time conviction. A second conviction mandates a 10 day minimum time. A DUI becomes a felony after the third offense with older DUI offenses factoring into penalties for up to 10 years.

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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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With the holidays here, a large amount of people will be traveling to see their families. While this is a time for celebrating and family fun, the increased number of drivers on the roads usually means a larger number of intoxicated drivers, leading to an increased risk of accidents and arrests for driving under the influence.

The following tips can keep you out of trouble and help you avoid being charged with a holiday DUI this year.

Do Not Drink and Drive

Sounds easy enough, right? The most obvious way to avoid a DUI over the holidays is to refrain from drinking and driving. If you plan on drinking, make sure you have a designated driver. If you do not have anyone that can drive you, call a taxi , use a rideshare app like Uber or Lyft, or just stay put until you are completely sober. This will keep you and everyone else on the roads safe.

A person can be charged with a DUI if they get behind the wheel of a car with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. There are several ways to keep you BAC down, including:

  • Eating
  • Drinking water
  • Pacing yourself
  • Waiting before driving

It is important to point out that if you happen to cause an accident with any amount of alcohol in your system, you can still face severe penalties and a possible DUI arrest. Every person is different, and there is no absolute formula to help you stay sober. Generally speaking, it takes a small amount of alcohol for a person to become legally drunk.

Drive Safely

Always drive safely, but pay special attention to this during the holidays. Don’t blow through stop signs or make any risky maneuvers. Eliminate distractions like cell phones and loud music so that you can focus completely on the task at hand.

The above tips can help you avoid a holiday DUI, but understand that there is always the possibility of being pulled over at the wrong time. If you find yourself arrested for DUI over the holidays, our Tampa Bay DUI Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you obtain the best possible outcome for your unique situation.

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Around 40 million drivers will be travelling on the roadways over the long Thanksgiving weekend to spend time with family and friends. In fact, Thanksgiving weekend is the most travelled holiday period of the year. It is estimated that 418 people will lose their lives in motor vehicle collisions in the United States this Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Safety Council.

For college students, Thanksgiving Eve is sometimes referred to as “Black Wednesday,” and it is unofficially known as the busiest bar night of the year, which means it is also the biggest drunk driving night of the year.

As many people celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, their celebration also includes the use of not just alcohol, but also drugs. Alcohol or drugs, or a combination of them, will put drivers at risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accidents that could kill or injure themselves as well as others.

It is important to mention that Florida has a Zero Tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21. Any driver who is under 21 who is stopped by law enforcement officers and has a blood alcohol level of .02 or higher will automatically have his or her Florida driver’s license suspended for six months. There are many other devastating consequences that accompany a DUI conviction, including academic penalties as well as criminal consequences.

Avoid a DUI this Thanksgiving

There are a few tips that can be followed to prevent DUI injuries and deaths, including:

  • Plan a safe way to get home before heading out to your party
  • Before drinking, designate a sober driver
  • If you are intoxicated, please do not get behind the wheel of a car. Call a taxi, use public transportation, call a sober friend or family member, or even use a ride share app such as Uber or Lyft so that you are sure to get home safely.
  • Remember, Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk. Take the keys and help them make other arrangements to get where they are going safely.

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