DUI Lawyer Thomas Grajek: Defending People in Tampa, Lutz & Lakeland FL
DUI Defense Attorneys in Polk County & Hillsborough County
DUI is a serious criminal offense that can affect your freedom, employment, and insurance rates if you are convicted. If you are facing drunk driving charges, call a DUI lawyer right away to start building your defense. My law firm handles all types of DUI cases including felony DUI, misdemeanor DUI, DUI manslaughter, underage DUI, DUI car accidents, DUI with hit and run charges, and DUI with serious bodily injury. I represent people charged with driving while intoxicated across Florida and have offices in Tampa, Lutz, and Lakeland for your convenience. I have over 15 years of experience successfully defending DUI and other criminal charges in the sunshine state.
Call now to schedule a free case review at the law office closest to you. I defend drunk driving charges in Hillsborough County & Polk County.
Lutz (727) 457-8660 | Tampa (813) 789-6404 | Lakeland (863) 688-4606
Is There A Mandatory License Suspension After DUI in Florida?
Yes, but there are ways to dispute it and get the suspension lifted. A DUI conviction in Florida carries certain mandatory penalties. Most importantly, when you were arrested for DUI, the State of Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) suspended your license for a period of 6 months to 18 months depending on the facts of your case, whether you blew over .08 or refused the Breath Test, and your prior driving history. There is a mandatory license suspension after being charged with a DUI in Florida. However, you can fight the license suspension.
The DUI citation the officer issued is your temporary driver’s license for the next 10 days, if you are otherwise eligible. After the 10 days, the administrative suspension of your driver’s license is effective. That means your license will be suspended for at least 6 months effective 10 days after you are charged with a DUI unless you have your DUI lawyers file an application for a formal review hearing.
EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO A HEARING TO DISPUTE YOUR LICENSE SUSPENSION
YOU MUST APPLY FOR THE FORMAL REVIEW HEARING WITHIN 10 DAYS OF YOUR ARREST.
Getting Your License Back After a DUI Suspension
Contact our office immediately after you have been charged with DUI so that we can begin the license suspension dispute process. We will file the necessary paperwork and argue your case before the DHSMV, disputing the license suspension and securing a temporary driving permit good for 42 days while your case is formally reviewed.
Below are some helpful links that we hope help answer some of your questions regarding DUI charges. If you have any questions, please reach out via phone, online contact form or email. Scroll down the page to find answers to some of the questions people ask me most when charged with a DUI.
- Download Formal Review Request to Dispute Drivers License Suspension
- How refusing a DUI breath test could be a crime under Florida Criminal Statute 316.1939, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in the Polk County jail.
- Walk and Turn Field Sobriety Tests
Why Do I Need a Defense Attorney for DUI Charges?
The punishment for a drunk driving conviction in Florida is severe, don’t go it alone. As your DUI attorney, I will fight the administrative suspension of your driver’s license. This hearing is called a Formal Review. I will assist you in obtaining a hardship license so you can continue to drive to work if you are eligible. It is important that you have an experienced DUI defense lawyer represent you at the Formal Review. The Formal Review process to dispute your driver’s license suspension can be a valuable discovery tool to help prepare your case for court and for trial.
How Can I Fight Drunk Driving Charges & What is the Best Possible Scenario?
The first step toward fighting drunk driving charges is retaining the counsel of an experienced defense lawyer with extensive knowledge about drunk driving cases in your county. You should fight the drunk driving allegations against you not only because of the serious ramifications possible from a conviction. In some cases, the prosecutor might drop the charges against you due to insufficient evidence. The court that is trying your case could also decide to dismiss the DUI charges. Both of these outcomes represent best case scenarios. A few reasons for the prosecutors or court to drop the charges against you include: inaccurate breathalyzer or alcohol breath test results, lack of probable cause, illegal search and seizure, or entrapment. The prosecutor may also reduce the severity of the drunk driving charges down to reckless driving in hopes of striking a plea deal.
An experienced defense attorney for DUI charges will ask the judge to throw out illegally obtained evidence in pre-trial motion. Pre-trial motions can also be used to request that irrelevant evidence filed by the prosecutor is thrown out, which can weaken the prosecutor’s case and strengthen your defense. After the pre-trial motions are filed to remove illegally obtained evidence and irrelevant evidence in your case, the prosecutor may decide to drop the charges against you altogether because of insufficient evidence.
How Can DUI Charges Be Reduced to Reckless Driving?
An experienced defense team can have the DUI charges against you decreased to reckless driving for a variety of reasons including an illegal stop by police without probable cause; video evidence that indicates sobriety; fourth amendment violation when being charged with drunk driving at a DUI checkpoint; defective Intoxilyzer 8000 or breathalyzer results; improperly stored blood or urine specimen; and pre-trial motions as mentioned above. Having the DUI charges dropped down to reckless driving means that the possible penalties and fines are significantly reduced.
Some of the mandatory penalties for a first-time DUI conviction in Florida are:
- Adjudication of Guilty so you are convicted and can not seal or expunge any arrest
- 6 month driver’s license suspension (independent of the DHSMV suspension)
- 50 hours community service
- Fine and court costs
- Attend DUI school
- Attend the Victim Impact Panel (VIP)
- A period of supervised probation
- Vehicle impoundment/immobilization for 10 days – many times I can get this condition deleted for my clients
Fines, Penalties, & Possible Jail Time for a DUI Conviction in Florida
The severity of the fines and penalties for a drunk driving conviction vary depending on whether you are considered a habitual offender, or whether it was your first arrest; whether you have other criminal convictions; whether you injured or killed someone; whether you had a child in the car or other passengers; what your alleged level of intoxication was and whether it was over .15; and if you are under 21 years of age. Laws for underage DUI convictions are much less stringent, and so are the penalties and fines.
1st Time DUI
If you plead Guilty or No Contest and it is your first time being charged with a DUI these are the following minimum penalties. You will usually receive these penalties unless you have a prior criminal record of any type or there are aggravating circumstances in your case, such as a reckless driving pattern or were involved in an accident. These are for Polk County, but are similar to any other county in Florida.
- 12 months supervised probation
- 6 month driver’s license suspension
- 50 community service hours
- No alcohol, bars, or lounges
- Attend Victim Impact Panel (VIP)
- DUI School – DUI Counterattack
- Complete an alcohol evaluation and nay recommended treatment
- Fine and court costs – Currently, as of Aug 3, 2010, this is $1,041.00 – If breath test result is over 0.15 or minor in the vehicle, see below
- Cost of Investigation
- Cost of Prosecution
- 10 day vehicle impound/immobilization (may be waived by the court if this is the only means of transportation for the household)
- Adjudication of Guilt – THIS MEANS YOU CANNOT SEAL OR EXPUNGE YOUR DUI OR ANY OTHER CRIMINAL RECORD AFTER BEING SENTENCED FOR A DUI. Even if you have a withhold of adjudication on the other charge or the other charge was dropped, you are ineligible!
INCREASED PENALTY FOR BREATH > 0.15 or MINOR IN VEHICLE
- Fine increased approximately $500.00
- 6 month interlock device placed on vehicle
2nd DUI within 5 years of the 1st DUI
If you plead Guilty or No Contest to a DUI and it is your second DUI within 5 years of your first DUI, some of the penalties are increased dramatically! The time frame is calculated from offense date to offense date. That means if the 2nd DUI is within 5 years of the date on your 1st DUI citation you fall into this category. These are the increased penalties:
- 5 YEAR DRIVER’S LICENSE REVOCATION!
- MANDATORY 10 DAYS IN JAIL – 48 hours must be consecutive
- 30 day vehicle impoundment
- 1 year interlock device
YOU MAY APPLY FOR A HARDSHIP LICENSE AFTER 1 YEAR. In order to qualify, you must not have driven a vehicle or drank any alcohol for the entire year prior to requesting the hardship license. I can help you through this process, just give me a call.
There are many important factors in a DUI case:
- Is the Breath Test admissible in court?
- Can the Breath Test results be excluded or thrown out?
- Is there a videotape of my arrest?
- Do the police have to videotape my arrest?
- How do I look on the video?
- Can the Field Sobriety Exercises be used against me?
- What is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus? (pen and eye exercise)
- Did the officer have to read me my rights (Miranda) at the roadside?
- Did I have the right to an attorney at the time the police asked me to take the Breath Test?
Answers to Common Questions About DUI Charges
I was in an accident, what is the Accident Report Privilege and how can that help my case?
If you were charged with DUI after an accident and allegedly caused bodily harm or injury to the occupants of another vehicle, Florida law makes it mandatory for the police to complete a Crash Report. After the crash report is filed, all parties involved with the accident, witnesses of the accident or aftermath, and law enforcement officers are subject to the rules of the Florida Accident Report Privilege. The Accident Report Privilege prevents anything said by witnesses, police officers, and other people involved in the crash from being used in either criminal or civil court.
If you were charged with DUI and an accident report was filed, please call and set an appointment so I can explain the penalties for felony DUI with bodily harm including the Florida Sentencing Guidelines and why you may be facing at least 10 years in prison for a DUI Manslaughter case.
Each DUI case is different and unique based upon the individual facts of your case. You need a DUI defense attorney. Call now to set up your free consultation so I can answer these and other questions you may have regarding your DUI.
Is it illegal to refuse to perform the Field Sobriety Exercises?
NO! There is no criminal penalty for refusing to perform the Field Sobriety Exercises. You have the right to refuse any and all field sobriety tests requested by the police. If you refuse to perform the exercises, the officer has to make a decision whether to arrest you or not based upon the evidence available to him. Whether or not your normal faculties are impaired is up to a jury at trial and they would have to determine that without the evidence of your performance during these exercises. Do you normally stand on one leg? Do you normally walk heel-to-toe? No, so how do these exercises assist he jury in making that determination?
Do the police have to have video of erratic driving for a DUI conviction?
Or my performance on the field sobriety exercises and when I am asked to take the breath test or actually take the breath test?
NO! There is no requirement that law enforcement videotape any part of a DUI investigation or arrest. This does not seem fair does it? A video tape is cheap and would be the best possible evidence for a judge or jury to see in a DUI case. It would be instant replay for the jury, but law enforcement is not required to do so. If your arrest is videotaped, law enforcement has a duty to preserve that evidence.
Why wouldn’t law enforcement want to videotape my DUI arrest?
Because then it becomes a credibility issue between you and the officer. A swearing contest. As a Sheriff’s office stated in an appellate case, videotapes help individuals accused of DUI’s, not prosecutors. If the police had a video of your driving or arrest it would hurt their prosecution and help your defense in most cases.
Did the police officer have to read me my rights (Miranda) at the roadside when he pulled me over for DUI?
NO! There is no requirement that law enforcement read you your Miranda rights during an Investigatory Stop for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). The courts have ruled that you are not “in custody” and Miranda does not have to be read.
Do I have the right to an attorney when the police ask me to take a Breath Test or other sobriety tests?
NO! The courts have ruled that you are not entitled to have your attorney present when you are asked to take the breath test. In addition, you may not consult with an attorney before deciding whether to take the breath test. However, you do have the right to remain silent and refuse to speak without an attorney present.
What happens if I blow over 0.15 on the Intoxilyzer breath test machine?
Obviously, your case will be more difficult to defend because a jury is instructed that if you blow 0.08 or higher, you are presumed to be impaired. In addition, your fine will be increased by approximately $500.00 and you will be required to install an interlock device on your vehicle. However, there is always margin for error with testing equipment and other factors could help get the charges against your dropped, dismissed, or lessened in some cases.
Is it true that my license will be suspended for a year if I refuse a breath test?
NOT EXACTLY! You are entitled to fight the administrative suspension of your license by requesting a Formal Review within 10 days of your arrest. Remember what the officer does not tell you when asking you to take the breath test, which is that if you take the breath test and blow over 0.08 your license will also be suspended (subject to review) for at least 6 months!
Is it a crime to refuse to take the breath test?
IT DEPENDS! If you have been previously arrested for DUI and have previously refused to take the breath test, the second time you refuse can be a criminal offense pursuant to Florida Statute 316.1939 punishable by up to a year in the county jail.
If the driver charged with DUI refuses to blow, submit to a breath or blood alcohol test, how can the prosecutor prove the arrested driver is guilty of DUI?
This is a common question I get as a criminal defense lawyer working on DUI cases in Polk County, Florida. Many arrested drivers think that because they refused to take the breath test, the charge must be dismissed because the prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence and cannot prove they were over the legal limit of 0.08. However, this is not the case. Florida Criminal Statute 316.193 is the DUI statute. Under 316.193, a driver is guilty of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), if the prosecutor proves beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The arrested driver either had a breath test result/level greater than 0.08 at the time of driving,
- Was under the influence to the extent that his normal faculties were impaired.
“Normal faculties” include, but are not limited to an arrested person’s ability to walk, talk, judge distances, drive an automobile, make judgments, act in emergencies, and, in general, to normally perform the many mental and physical acts of our daily lives.
Therefore, the prosecutor would attempt to prove to a jury at trial that the driver is guilty of DUI because their “normal faculties” were impaired. The prosecutor will attempt to do this by showing the jury a copy of the DUI video if there is a video.
The prosecutor would also have the officer testify as to indicators of impairment shown by the defendant in the criminal case. These factors can be the arrested person’s appearance, whether the arrested driver’s speech was slurred, the individuals’ performance on the field sobriety tests (FSE exercises), and how the DUI suspect walked while at the scene of the arrest. These are just a few examples of how a prosecutor would attempt to prove a person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of DUI to a jury at trial.
Does Polk County Videotape or Record DUI Arrests?
No, Polk County Sheriff’s Office does not videotape or record DUI arrests. If you were hoping to prove your innocence and sobriety through a video recording you are out of luck. Therefore, your DUI defense law firm needs to bring out facts in your case that show your “normal faculties” were not impaired.
These facts could be a normal driving pattern, no traffic laws broken, that the suspected drunk driver exited the vehicle without problems, did not slur their words, performed well on the field sobriety exercises (FSE tests), that the DUI officer or Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) did not explain the field sobriety exercises correctly or may have interpreted or graded the driver’s performance incorrectly and not according to the National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration Manual.
I have a copy of this manual that the officer or deputy has been trained with in order to give instructions on the field sobriety exercises. This field sobriety protocol manual sets the standard for how field sobriety exercises are to be performed, and graded. You need a DUI lawyer like me that can bring out theses facts and explain to a jury that your normal faculties were NOT impaired and you were not driving while intoxicated.
What Makes a DUI Charge a Felony According to Florida Law?
1) 3rd DUI in 10 Years is a Felony. A driver’s third DUI occurs within 10 years after a previous DUI conviction. This means that if you are arrested for a third time for DUI and were convicted of you had a 2nd DUI in the last 10 years, it is a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in Florida State Prison. If it has been more than 10 years since the last DUI conviction, it is a 1st degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
2) Fourth DUI is a Felony. An arrested driver’s 4th DUI is also a felony. That means is a person has been convicted 3 times of DUI; the 4th DUI is a 3rd degree felony punishable by to 5 years in Florida state prison.
3) DUI with Serious Bodily Injury is a Felony. If a DUI defendant causes serious bodily injury to another, it is also a 3rd degree felony. A 3rd degree felony is punishable by up to 5 years in prison. When the score sheet is calculated, the victim injury on the score sheet scores or adds 40 points to the score sheet total. The appellate courts have ruled that victim injury points can be scored even though personal injury is inherent in the crime of Driving Under the Influence with Serious Bodily Injury. DUI resulting in serious bodily injury is a Level 7 offense under the Sentencing Guidelines and scores 56 points. Therefore, if the driver had no prior criminal record, they would score a guideline or minimum prison sentence of 4.25 months in prison. Below is an illustration that shows how the points are calculated for a first time DUI with bodily injury in Florida.
56 + 40 = 96 points total – 28 * .75 = 51 points = 4.25 months in prison
If the defendant driver has any prior record or driving offenses scored, the driver could score more points and be sentenced to more than 5 years in Florida state prison.
Felony Count Multiplied Per Injured Victim. Finally, each person injured in a DUI accident is counted as a separate crime and count. This means that is the alleged drunk driver struck another vehicle that had 4 people in the car and all 4 people suffered serious bodily injury, the arrested driver would be charged with 4 counts of driving under the influence causing serious bodily injury.
4) DUI Causing Death is a Felony DUI Manslaughter. If a driver causes the death of any human being or unborn quick child, the charge is elevated to DUI manslaughter. A DUI manslaughter charge is a 2nd degree felony in Florida punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
5) DUI Hit & Run or Failure to Stop and Render Aid is a Felony. If the driver in the case of a DUI manslaughter knows (or should have known) that the crash or accident occurred, but failed to give or render aid as required to in Florida Criminal Statute 316.062 it is a 1st degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
DUI manslaughter carries a 4 year minimum mandatory Florida State Prison sentence.
In addition, it is mandated by Florida statute that anyone convicted of a DUI be adjudicated guilty. If the DUI charge is a felony that means it is mandatory that the court or judge sentence the felony DUI driver so that they are a convicted felon!
How Can I Find The Best Defense Lawyer for DUI Charges?
The three things to look for when trying to find the best DUI defense lawyer are experience, successful case records, and number of cases argued before a jury. Ask to speak with references if possible. Ask the attorney how many cases they have brought to trial before a jury and how many DUI cases and/or criminal cases they have won vs lost. That is how you can find the best person for the job, don’t be afraid to ask. Also, read online reviews from real clients. This should help you find the perfect legal counsel.
Driving Under the Influence charges are very serious and can affect your freedom, employment, insurance rates, and whether or not you are a convicted felon. I defend all drunk driving charges for first time DUIs, DUI manslaughter, DUI with child passenger, 2nd DUI, 3rd DUI, and habitual DUI offenders. Call and set an appointment so I can begin building your defense and dispute your license suspension before it’s too late.
Why Hire Me?
Besides my proven track record and experience defending people facing drunk driving charges, you should hire me because I attend regular training to keep my DUI defense skills and strategies sharp. A couple of the Polk County & Hillsborough County DUI defense seminars I’ve attended recently include the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Blood Breath & Tears DUI Seminar and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ DUI Seminar.
I’m also licensed in forensic chromatography, earning the title Forensic Lawyer Scientist from the American Chemistry Society’s Chemistry and the Law division. This training gives me in-depth knowledge of specimen testing, best practices, and how to prove biological evidence unfit for trial. These seminars give me an opportunity to network with the top DUI attorneys in the country. These seminars give me an opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas with other DUI attorneys and experts. This insures that you get the best legal defense for your DUI in Polk County or Hillsborough County.
Some of the issues and ideas discussed:
- Latest issues with the Intoxilyzer 8000 Breath Test Machine. The problems with the breath test machine, latest motions to suppress, and what the FDLE is saying about the breath test machine;
- Field Sobriety Exercises. How to attack these exercises that have nothing to do with your “Normal Faculties” which is the actual standard a jury must determine in a DUI case;
- Using Exhibits and Computer generated graphics in a DUI criminal trial so that you get the best defense to your DUI charge;
- Latest case law and legal issues regarding the Formal Review. This is the hearing that you have 10 days to fight the administrative suspension of your driver’s license for either having a breath test result over 0.08 on the Intoxilyzer or refusing the breath test;
- Problems in blood cases when blood is taken to prove whether a driver is intoxicated. This happens in DUI consent cases, when a breath test is impractical or impossible to give to give, and DUI serious bodily injury cases;
- Drug Recognition Experts (so called “experts”) and the attacks that are happening around the country and what medical doctors really think of these “Drug Influence Evaluations” (DIE);
- Latest case law updates on DUI law.
Contact a Florida DUI Defense Lawyer Today
Don’t leave your future to chance…call me today to schedule a free case review or fill out an online form to request an appointment. I’m an aggressive, unrelenting defense attorney. When you’re facing charges as serious as DUI, I’m the defense lawyer you need on your side. 15+ years of experience representing DUI defendants and a proven case record of success.
Lakeland, FL (863) 838-5549
Tampa, FL (813) 789-6404
Lutz, FL (727) 457-8660