St. Petersburg DUI Lawyer
Fighting DUI Charges Throughout Pinellas County
A momentary lack of judgment or a miscalculation in a situation can land even the most careful people in Florida into criminal troubles. Driving under the influence in Florida is a complex matter that goes well beyond your day in court. You could face harsh penalties, including jail time and fines, along with a lifetime of consequences. Melinda Morris, Attorney and Managing Partner at Morris Law Firm, P.A. is here to help.
After a DUI arrest, your driver’s license is at risk and it can be taken from you in a matter completely separate from your trial. Being without a driver’s license is more than an inconvenience, and a lack of identification can cause severe problems in your personal and professional life. Your future and your way of life is in the balance, and you cannot afford to be misrepresented.
Why Hire a DUI Lawyer in Pinellas County?
One of the most important steps to take after getting arrested for a DUI is to hire a qualified criminal defense lawyer. Having a knowledgeable DUI lawyer in Pinellas County on your side can make all the difference when it comes to getting the best outcome possible. From understanding complex laws and how they relate to your case, to developing strategic defenses for your trial, a good Pinellas County DUI defense lawyer will provide invaluable advice and guidance.
- Ensure that all of your rights are respected throughout the process: from questioning by police officers to court proceedings.
- Review evidence presented against you and investigate any potential weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.
- Negotiate a favorable plea bargain with prosecutors, or craft persuasive arguments on behalf of their clients during trial, if necessary.
If you're facing a DUI charge, having experienced legal representation on your side can be the difference between a favorable outcome and one that leaves you with serious consequences.
Morris Law Firm, P.A. Is the Right Choice
If you have been arrested for a DUI, contact a St. Petersburg driving under the influence defense lawyer at Morris Law Firm, P.A.. Our knowledgeable legal team can help you fight to pursue favorable options, including case dismissal, not guilty verdicts, reduced charges, and other positive outcomes.
Melinda Morris, Attorney and Managing Partner at Morris Law Firm, P.A., served on the DUI Manslaughter / Vehicular Homicide squad as a state attorney where she was responsible for prosecuting serious cases from investigation through trial. She also received special training on prosecuting DUI cases. This inside knowledge is critical and can benefit the defense of your case.
- FORMER STATE PROSECUTOR
- STRATEGICALLY AGGRESSIVE
- TRUSTED & EXPERIENCED
- PERSONAL ATTENTION
- PROMPT COMMUNICATION
- SAME DAY REPRESENTATION
Morris Law Firm, P.A. represents clients throughout Pinellas County, including Clearwater, Dunedin, Pinellas Park, Palm Harbor, Gulf City and other nearby areas.
About St. Petersburg & Pinellas County DUI Charges
Pinellas County is located on the east coast of Florida and is a part of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area. Its current county seat, Clearwater, is fast growing with a 6 percent increase in population since the 2010 census. Pinellas County also boasts an array of tourist sites and industries such as the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the nightlife in St. Petersburg, and the various beaches scattered throughout the county.
The exciting atmosphere of Pinellas County also means there are more drunk drivers on the road. Pinellas County law enforcement agencies are always thinking of new tactics to identify drivers who are under the influence. In addition, the penalties for DUI are incredibly harsh. You could be facing fines in the thousands as well as possible time in jail.
If you were arrested for DUI in St. Petersburg or Pinellas County, it’s highly recommended you seek experienced legal counsel. You can also find helpful information by clicking on the following links:
- Definition of DUI in Florida
- Actual Physical Control in DUI Cases
- Implied Consent Laws
- Will I Lose My Driver’s License?
- Automatic License Suspension
- Florida DUI Penalties
- Defenses in St. Petersburg DUI Cases
- FDOT DUI Enforcement Grant
- DUI Arrest Statistics: Pinellas County, FL
- Additional DUI Resources
Definition of DUI in Florida
According to Florida Statutes Annotated § 316.193, drivers can be considered under the influence when they are driving or are in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the point where their normal faculties are impaired. Normal faculties include the ability to perform mental and physical acts of daily life, such as seeing, hearing, balancing, or talking.
Field Sobriety Test
Drivers in Florida can be arrested for a DUI if he or she fails a sobriety test. These tests come in two methods: physical, such as field sobriety tests, and chemical, such as a breath or blood analysis. They are used to determine if a person is impaired by drugs or alcohol.
- A physical field sobriety test measures a person’s ability to control his or her bodily actions. This includes balance, agility, and reaction time. These results of the field sobriety tests are subjective and are determined by the arresting officer.
BAC Limit of .08
Under Florida law, if a person’s blood alcohol level is registered to be .08 on a breath test or in a blood test, he or she would be considered legally intoxicated. Certain factors can alter both the blood test results and the breathalyzer results. For example, if a person has medical reasons for this level, an attorney can use that as a strong defense.
- Juveniles also can be charged with zero tolerance DUI charges. Drivers younger than 21 cannot blow more than 0.02 BAC. The penalties could include a six-month driver’s license suspension for the first offense.
Actual Physical Control in DUI Cases
Actual physical control is one of the most complex aspects of DUI cases. Under Florida law, the term “actual physical control” means a person was physically in or on the vehicle and had the capability to operate the vehicle. This could apply regardless of whether he or she is actually operating the vehicle at the time or if the vehicle even was turned on.
A person can be arrested for a DUI if he or she is intoxicated and is sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys in his or her clothing pocket. This could be considered being in actual physical control of the vehicle, even though the vehicle was not running.
Implied Consent Laws
When a person gets behind the wheel in Florida, whether a resident or a visitor, he or she is deemed to have given his or her consent to submit to a chemical test during a DUI stop. This is considered an implied consent law under Florida Statutes Annotated § 316.1932.
Drivers have the right to refuse chemical testing, including blood, breath, and urine tests, but it could carry harsh penalties. Penalties could include an automatic license suspension for up to one year if it is the first refusal. A second refusal could mean having a license suspended for up to 18 months.
Will I Lose My Driver’s License?
After your initial arrest, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will process an order to suspend your driver’s license, according to Florida Statute Section 322.2615. This means even though you still have your day in court upcoming, you will not be able to legally drive a vehicle.
Drivers have 10 days after an arrest to request an informal or a formal review hearing. In a formal review, the driver can present evidence and witnesses. In an informal review hearing, the hearing officer will examine the materials submitted by the driver and the officer. The outcome of the hearing determines if a person can have his or her driving privileges reinstated.
Our attorneys can work to provide a way for Florida residents to keep their license after a drunk driving or drugged driving arrest. Drivers potentially can be issued a 42-day driving permit that will allow them to drive while their case is being tried. We can make sure you receive your due diligence.
Automatic License Suspension & St. Petersburg DUI Arrests
If you were arrested for DUI, this doesn’t automatically mean you’re charged. The District Attorney may decide to drop the charges altogether if there’s insufficient evidence. However, your license could still be if you failed or refused DUI chemical testing. These types of tests include breathalyzers, blood analysis, and urinalysis.
The reason why your license may be suspended is because of implied consent laws. These laws state you’re implicitly agreeing to chemical DUI testing if you use Florida roads. They also state refusing or failing a chemical test will result in an automatic administrative license suspension. An administrative suspension is not related to a criminal one and is enforced by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV).
- The suspension periods depend on whether you failed or refused chemical testing. If you failed a DUI chemical test, then your license will automatically be suspended for up to 6 months. Second or subsequent failed tests will result in a license suspension for up to one year.
- Refusals have a much longer suspension term. If you refuse a DUI chemical test, then your license will result in an administrative license suspension of up to one year. A second or subsequent refusal will lead to an enhanced suspension term of up to 18 months.
- You can choose to contest your suspension by filing a request for a formal review hearing. The hearing will be held at the DHSMV and there you can provide evidence as to why your suspension should be overturned. You must act quickly, however. You only have 10 days to file a request for a formal review hearing after your arrest. Once the deadline has passed, the DHSMV will ban you from filing a request.
Florida DUI Penalties
The penalties for DUI charges vary based on several different factors, including the driver’s previous criminal history.
- A first DUI offense would be a second-degree misdemeanor.
- A second DUI offense would be a first-degree misdemeanor.
- If a person is charged with a third DUI offense within 10 years of the last conviction, it would be considered a third-degree felony. However, if a prior DUI conviction occurred more than 10 years before the most recent arrest, the offense can be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor.
- If a person is arrested for a fourth DUI or subsequent DUI, the offense will be otherwise known as a felony DUI, no matter how many prior convictions or the time that has elapsed. This could mean enhanced penalties.
Some of the specific DUI penalties in Florida include:
- Expensive Fines – A conviction will result in an automatic fine, which is determined by the court. The minimum fine for DUI is $500 and the maximum is up to $1,000. If you had an alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher, then the fine amount will be enhanced to a minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $2,000.
- Incarceration – You could be incarcerated for a period if you’re convicted of DUI. A first-time DUI offender could face up to six months in jail. A second offense could result in up to nine months in jail. If this is your third offense within the last ten years, then you could face up to five years in prison. Certain factors could enhance your incarceration sentence such as having a child passenger in the car.
- License Suspension – Your license will be automatically suspended if you’re convicted of DUI. This suspension is different from your administrative one and can be added on top of your administrative suspension term. The minimum suspension term for a DUI is 180 days, but the maximum is up to one year.
- DUI Courses – Depending on your sentencing, you could be ordered by the court to attend DUI classes. These classes teach substance and alcohol abuse, how it affects your driving, and ways to minimize alcohol or drug consumption. A first-time DUI offender must complete up to 12 hours of school to reinstate their license.
- Community Service – Some DUI offenders are ordered by the court to attend community service. If this happens, you will be required to complete up to 50 hours of service.
- Ignition Interlock Device – If this is your second DUI or aggravated DUI, then you could be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID). Essentially, an IID is a breathalyzer attached to your car’s engine. Once installed, you will be obligated to provide a breath sample to start the car. If you blow at or over .08, then your car’s engine will be locked.
Additional DUI penalties may include:
- Probation or house arrest
- Substance abuse evaluation and treatment
- A 10-day impoundment of your vehicle
- Higher auto insurance premiums
- FR-44 DUI insurance
- Court-ordered restitution
- Victim Impact Panel courses
- A permanent criminal record
The penalties for DUI offenses can severely increase in some situations. For example, drivers who receive a commercial DUI could face losing their CDL license. If a person causes damage to a car, building, or other property, they could face DUI with property damage charges. If a drunk or impaired driver seriously injures another person, it could be considered DUI with serious bodily injury.
Potential Defenses in St. Petersburg DUI Cases
All DUI charges are unique to that driver’s situation. However, the potential defenses in drunk driving cases are limitless. Deciding on a DUI lawyer with exclusive facts of these possible defenses is critical. You can discuss your circumstances with a St. Petersburg DUI defense lawyer and determine a strong defense for your case.
Some possible DUI defenses include:
- Driving or actual physical control — Being intoxicated will not classify as a DUI charge. The prosecutor must prove the defendant was actually driving or in actual physical control. This may be challenging, especially when accidents are involved.
- Probable cause — Evidence in the case could be inadmissible if the law enforcer did not have legal cause to halt, impede or detain a driver. Without sufficient evidence, the case could be dismissed or charges could be reduced.
- Miranda Rights — Failures to read a DUI suspect’s Miranda rights (such as the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney) may result in any incriminating statements being rendered inadmissible in court.
- Implied consent warnings — If the police officer did not warn you of the penalties of declining to take a chemical test, or if they administered the test inaccurately, this may affect the admissibility of the test results and your driver’s license suspension.
- Under the influence — The police officer’s interpretations and views as to drunkenness can be questioned, including the conditions under which the field sobriety assessments were given and the officer’s interpretation of the results. Witnesses can attest you appeared sober.
- Blood alcohol concentration — There exists a wide range of possible complications with blood, breath, or urine analysis. Most breath machines will register many chemical compounds found on the human breath as alcohol, which is a non-specific analysis. Other defects in analysis can be conveyed in cross-examination of the state’s expert witness and the defense can appoint its own forensic chemist.
- Testing during the absorptive phase — The blood, breath, or urine test will be defective if done while you are actively absorbing alcohol. It takes between 45 minutes and three hours to complete absorption. This can be delayed if food is present in the stomach.
- Retrograde extrapolation — This refers to the requirement that the blood and alcohol concentration level be “related back” in time from the test to the driving.
- Regulation of blood alcohol testing — The prosecution must prove the blood, breath, or urine test complied with state requirements as to calibration, maintenance, and other factors.
FDOT DUI Enforcement Grant
In early 2018, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office announced that it had received a $34,000 DUI Enforcement grant from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The grant money will be used to fund various DUI enhancement projects throughout Pinellas County beginning on Saturday, February 3, 2018, and running through September 30, 2018.
Part of the grant money will be used by the DUI Unit of the Patrol Operations Bureau to conduct “saturation patrols” throughout the county. During the saturation patrols, deputies with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office will be looking for drivers that commit traffic violations or might be impaired.
The saturation patrols funded by the FDOT DUI Enforcement grant will supplement the quarterly multi-jurisdictional DUI Wolf Packs in Pinellas County. The agency also plans to continue its traditional Wolf Packs and other DUI enforcement activities throughout the year.
DUI Arrest Statistics for Pinellas County, Florida
Unfortunately, Pinellas County has one of the highest DUI arrest rates in the state. It currently sits at number two for most DUI arrests right behind Hillsborough County with over 3,000 reported arrests in 2017. These records can be found at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is collected through the F.B.I managed program known as Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR). These reports collect arrest data annually from law enforcement agencies by jurisdiction and type of offense since 1999.
Listed below are some statistics for DUI-related arrests in Pinellas County, Florida.
- There were 36,566 arrests were made in Pinellas County;
- The arrest rate per 100,000 population in Pinellas County was 3,801.0; and
- Out of those arrests, 2,425 of them were for DUI-related incidents.
- The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department arrested 8,617 people; and
- 414 of those arrests were for DUI-related crimes.
- Clearwater arrested 5,975 people in the year of 2017;
- The arrest rate per 100,000 population was 5,254; and
- 294 of the arrests for DUI-related offenses.
- In St. Petersburg, there were 10,149 people arrested in 2017;
- The arrest rate per 100,000 population was 3,847; and
- Out of those arrests, 486 of them were for DUI-related offenses.
Additional DUI Resources
Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association – The Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association, or FADAA, is an organization that embodies more than 100 community-based substance abuse treatment and prevention agencies and more than 1,000 individual members throughout Florida.
Florida DUI Laws – Visit the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to get more information on Florida DUI and Administrative Suspension Laws. Find a list of the licensed DUI programs in Florida, including the Suncoast Safety Council, Inc., in Pinellas County.
Level I DUI Program at the Suncoast Safety Council – Visit the website of the Suncoast Safety Council, Inc., with locations in both Clearwater and St. Petersburg, FL, to find out more about the requirements to enroll in and complete the Level I DUI program, a twelve (12) hour course along with an evaluation. The website explains what you need to bring to the registration, the driver risk evaluation completed by a certified DUI Evaluator, and information about the $286.50, which includes the State Assessment Fee, a Florida lifetime driving record, and the Driver Risk Inventory questionnaire. Suncoast Safety Council accepts money orders, cash, and all major credit cards including American Express and Discover Card.
MADD Florida – The Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, is an organization that stands for activism, victims' services, and education. Visit the MADD website for content on preventing driving under the influence.
Pinellas County – MADD
2857 Executive Dr. 1st Floor
Clearwater, FL 33762
Phone: (727) 592-5885
Pinellas County Sheriff’s DUI Unit – The majority of DUI arrests are made by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. These are done through highway patrol or the specialized DUI unit created by Chief of Police Bob Gualtieri. The unit focuses on using science and other methods to identify drivers who are under the influence. You can locate their office at 14250 49th Street North #1000 in Clearwater, Florida.
Pinellas County Clerk – All documents and important information are handled by the Pinellas County Clerk of the Court. Here you can obtain the records you need as well as make any court payments. You can find the Clerk at 315 Court Street in Clearwater.
State Attorney for Pinellas County – The State Attorney is the chief prosecutor for its region. Currently, Bernie McCabe is the head attorney for the Sixth Judicial Unit which serves both Pinellas and Pasco Counties. Their offices can be located at 315 Court Street in Clearwater, Florida.
Pinellas County Bureau of Administrative Review – The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has a division that handles administrative suspensions known as the Bureau of Administrative Review. There, you can contest your suspension by providing evidence that proves it wasn’t just. You can find the Bureau of Administrative Review at 1663 Gulf to Bay Boulevard in Clearwater, Florida.
DUI School – In some cases, you may be ordered to attend DUI classes at the Suncoast Safety Council. Access their site to learn how to register, what you’re required to bring, and what each class teaches. The program has two locations currently. One is in Clearwater at 1145 Court Street and the other is in St. Petersburg at 455 31st Street North.
DUI Arrest Statistics in Florida – Visit the official website for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). Access their site to find statistics for arrest data in Florida. Download their Excel or PDF files of arrest statistics gathered between the years 1999 and 2017 categorized by jurisdiction, type of offense, and race.
DUI Roadblocks in Pinellas County – There are numerous DUI checkpoints and roadblocks set up in Pinellas County. If you have been a victim of a Pinellas County Roadblock or checkpoint, contact the Morris Firm for more information on how they can help you with your DUI case.
Pinellas County Jail – Who’s in Jail link allows you to enter the name and address of people that may be held in the Pinellas County Jail.
Pinellas County Jail
14400 49th Street North
Clearwater, FL 33762
Florida Highway Patrol – List of highway patrol stations for Pinellas County Florida and surrounding counties
7651 US 19 North
Pinellas Park, FL 33781
Driver’s License Offices – Locations to get your driver’s license, ID cards, and driving tests around Pinellas County and St. Petersburg.
6855 62nd Ave. North
Pinellas Park, FL 33781
800 2nd Avenue
St. Petersburg, FL 330701
62nd Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
1800 66th Street North
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
1663 Gulf to Bay Blvd
Clearwater, FL 33755
29399 Hwy 19 North, Ste 100
Clearwater, FL 34621
13025 Starkey Road
Largo, FL 33773
5701 E. Hillsborough Ave. Net Park, Suite 2228
Tampa, FL 3361
Finding a DUI Defense Lawyer in Pinellas County, FL
Whether it is your freedom or your license, you cannot delay in getting legal representation. Contact Morris Law Firm, P.A. at (727) 592-5885 to schedule a free initial consultation about your DUI case. Our legal team is dedicated to helping people protect their futures, and we are prepared to defend you against misdemeanor and felony drunk or drugged driving charges.
Whether this is your first DUI or you have a prior conviction, we can help. We are experienced in fighting DUI cases with a breath test, blood test, urine test, or an allegation that you refused to submit to testing. DUI cases are treated differently in Pinellas County, you need a local DUI attorney who understands the rules and procedures that will be most effective in your particular case.
Looking for even more information on DUI in St. Petersburg or Pinellas County? Visit any of the following pages on our website for helpful insight on a particular topic:
- Prescription or Illegal Drug DUI
- DMV Administrative Review Hearing
- DUI Refusal
- DUI Intoxilyzer 8000
- DUI Roadblock / Sobriety Checkpoint
- Zero Tolerance DUI (Under 21)
- DUI Manslaughter / DUI Fatality
- First DUI Punishments
- Second DUI Punishments
- Third DUI Punishments
- Fourth DUI Punishments
- DUI Property Damage
- DUI with Serious Bodily Injury
- Actual Physical Control DUI
Melinda Morris is a former prosecutor and has handled thousands of criminal cases from investigation through sentencing enabling us to identify weaknesses in the State’s case against you.
We never settle for the easiest outcome or the typical result. We know how to negotiate with the State Attorney and we will work to get you the best possible outcome.
Melinda Morris has practiced criminal law for over 20 years. Our clients trust advice that comes from experience in nearly every type of criminal case.
We will know every client’s story because we will take the time to listen and understand. You will work with your attorney one-on-one at every stage of the process.
You will have the cell phone number of your attorney. Your attorney will directly return your call, email, or text to answer your pressing questions.
The government is wasting no time in trying to prove your guilt, a proactive defense is imperative. Prompt and decisive action from your defense attorney is of critical importance.
At Morris Law Firm, P.A., your satisfaction is our priority! See for yourself what our clients have to say about working with us.
Seth Shapiro is the most professional, courteous, caring attorneys I’ve dealt with in all of my 70 years. He did a fabulous job representing me defending me and getting charges dropped. I couldn’t have dreamed of better counsel.- Stephen on AVVO
100% satisfied with Morris law group. Melinda was able to resolve my legal issues with no additional expenses other than my original retainer. I highly recommend this firm for professional and competent representation.- Peter R. on Yelp
If you want the best legal representation, look no further than Morris law firm. Melinda reassured me from the very first time we spoke over the phone. She is very professional and keeps you updated on the progress of your case. I really liked that I didn’t have to reach out to her Everything was smooth, straightforward and she put my mind at ease. You’ll be in good hands with her. Thank you Melinda- Hassan on Google
Mr.Shapiro helped my case by looking at the police body cam diligently which supported my testimony . He presented evidence to the prosecutor .I hired Seth Shapiro to defend me after a domestic battery charge in which I was wrongfully accused and arrested. My case was dismissed thankfully. .Couldn't have asked for a better outcome. This was an extreme difficult time for me. Seth Shapiro was knowledgeable and compassionate in my case. He followed up with my concerns. I would highly recommend this firm.- Melody Z.
Melinda has represented me on numerous cases and the outcome has always been great. Melinda goes above and beyond to defend your rights and get you the best possible outcome. I highly recommend hiring her.- Shasta on Google
Morris Law Firm is a very professional and responsive. They closed my case in a very short terms, for what I'm very grateful. Strongly recommend them especially Seth Shapiro. He decreased my case from felony to misdemeanor in short terms and during 6 months my case was totally closed.- Elina P. on Google