DUI Arrest by the Tampa Police Department

Update: The Tampa Police Department recently conducted a DUI and traffic safety checkpoint from 10 pm on February 18 until 1 am on February 19, 2023, at 5203 N Armenia Ave., Tampa, FL 33603. The event resulted in three misdemeanor arrests, one warrant arrest for DUI, and one warrant arrest for  Failure to Appear on a charge for No Valid Driver’s License.

Many of the officers on the Tampa Police Department’s DUI enforcement unit have special training to conduct DUI investigations and other types of related cases, including traffic homicide cases or vehicular manslaughter.

In addition to the training at the police academy, the officers have additional training in traffic crash investigations and driving under the influence investigations.

Many of these DUI enforcement officers at TPD have completed advanced training classes, attended seminars, and obtained certifications in dealing with DUI and traffic crash investigations.

Attorney for a DUI Arrest by TPD

If you were arrested for DUI by an officer with the Tampa Police Department, then contact an experienced attorney at Sammis Law Firm. We focus on fighting DUI cases after an arrest in the City of Tampa and throughout Hillsborough County, FL.

Our office is in downtown Tampa just a few blocks from the courthouse. We are in the courtrooms throughout Tampa and Plant City fighting DUI cases.

Focusing on DUI cases in Hillsborough County allows us to be familiar with the tactics used by TPD’s DUI enforcement unit and the breath test machines used at the Central Breath Testing (CBT) facility at Orient Road Jail.

Contact us to speak directly with an attorney about the facts of your case. Call 813-250-0500.

DUI Enforcement Efforts in Tampa, FL

As a result of the high number of DUI accidents in the City of Tampa, the Florida Department of Transportation provides the Tampa Police Department with grant money each year that can be used for extra DUI enforcement efforts.

More DUI enforcement officers will be on patrol during many holidays, including over Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, the Fourth of July, Memorial Day Weekend, and Labor Day Weekend.

For these increased patrols, the grant money covers additional overtime paid to the officer to arrest individuals for driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances.

The twelve officers with the Tampa Police Department DUI enforcement unit have all completed a course by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) called Detection and Apprehension of Impaired Drivers.

Many of the TPD DUI officers have received additional training to be “DUI Instructors” or Drug Recognition Evaluators/Experts (called “DRE”).

TPD’s List of Hot Spots for DUI Arrests

The TPD officers consistently frequent certain parts of the city more than others. Their website previously included the following list of the “Top 10 List of Locations for DUI Arrests in the City of Tampa”:

  • The Channelside District (which includes popular restaurants, bars, nightclubs, the exit and entrance for Tampa commercial cruises, and visitors of the Tampa Bay Lightning game at the St Pete Times Forum);
  • The Courtney Campbell Causeway (western portions of State Road 60, which connects Tampa to Clearwater);
  • The northern half of the Dale Mabry Corridor (from Hillsborough Avenue to Kennedy Boulevard near Mons Venus, George M. Steinbrenner Field, Raymond James Stadium, and the Tampa International Airport);
  • The Hillsborough Avenue Corridor (from I-275 to Dale Mabry);
  • NOHO (which is short for North Howard Avenue, which runs from Kennedy Boulevard to I-275 near the University of Tampa);
  • Kennedy Corridor (Dale Mabry to the Hillsborough River);
  • Nebraska Avenue (from Fowler Avenue to Waters Avenue);
  • SOHO (which is short for “South Howard Avenue,” which is Hyde Park’s entertainment district that starts at Kennedy Boulevard and runs through Cleveland Street, Platt Street, and Swann Avenue);
  • Tampa Palms; and
  • Ybor City.

TPD’s System of In-Vehicle Video Recording

The standard operating procedures for DUI enforcement require the officers to video record their DUI investigations. These DUI videos should include the following:

  • the initial driving patterns (when the stop is conducted by a DUI enforcement officer);
  • the initial encounter with the driver, the request for roadside agility exercises (often called “standard field sobriety exercises”);
  • the arrest; and
  • the transportation to Hillsborough County’s Central Breath Testing facility at the Orient Road Jail.

If the officer violates this policy or claims that the in-vehicle video recording equipment was not working properly, then the defense attorney can move to dismiss the entire case or at least the officer’s testimony about facts that should have been recorded.

The officers should also follow certain procedures when the equipment is not working properly so that individual officers in the field cannot decide when to use the equipment.

Each officer with the Tampa Police Department DUI enforcement unit is assigned a portable breath-testing device that can be used to test under-aged drivers at the scene of the stop whenever a driver under the age of 21 is stopped during a DUI investigation.

TPD’s Wolfpack Operations for DUI Enforcement

The Wolfpack Operations by the Tampa Police Department include “aggressive” patrols around certain areas that TPD determines to be traveled frequently by drunk or impaired drivers. Unlike DUI roadblocks and checkpoint operations, Wolfpack Operations occur without any prior warning or guidelines.

TPD also conducts checkpoints periodically. One of the last DUI checkpoints conducted by TPD occurred on late Friday, August 11, to early Saturday, August 12. The TPD DUI Enforcement officers were stationed near the 5200 block of North Armenia Avenue from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. This last DUI checkpoint was conducted in the City of Tampa as part of the $191,000 Florida Department of Transportation grant.

To receive the grant money, TPD officers on the DUI enforcement unit keep statistics on the number of DUI arrests they make and a host of other data. For instance, the TPD DUI enforcement officers keep statistics on the number of DUI “Non-Arrest” made by each officer.

The term DUI “Non-Arrest” is defined as a DUI-related traffic stop in which a DUI investigator was called to a patrol officer’s scene to investigate a possible impaired driver OR a DUI investigator stops a vehicle based on their own suspicion, wherein the vehicle operator does not meet the threshold to be arrested for the offense of DUI.

Although Tampa is the largest city in the Tampa Bay Area, it’s not the most dangerous for DUIs. A recent study shows that Tampa’s DUI fatality rate of 3.77 puts it in 7th place compared to other Florida cities.

According to these recent studies, Tampa has decreased the number of deaths. For example, between 2012 and 2014, there were 48 DUI deaths in Tampa. From 2015 to 2017, the number of DUI deaths fell to 38.

Nevertheless, the Tampa Police Department’s Media Relations Department announced recently that the City of Tampa has a “higher than average” number of traffic fatalities and alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

TPD’s Relationships with Community Organizations Opposed to Alcohol

The Tampa Police Department has long relationships with the Tampa Alcohol Coalition (TAC) and the Hillsborough County Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

You can also follow the Tampa Police Department on Facebook. TPD has recently produced educational videos covering various law enforcement issues and community outreach activities. Find employment information from the Tampa Police Department, including job and salary information.

Scandals within the DUI Enforcement Unit of TPD

DUI enforcement officers should not engage in schemes to “set up” or entrap an individual and then make false allegations of DUI. Yet for eight months, the Tampa Police Department attempted to ignore and make excuses for the conduct of Sgt. Ray Fernandez, a DUI squad supervisor, even though it quickly become apparent to the public that he committed serious acts of wrongdoing on several separate occasions.

Sgt. Ray Fernandez was a 19-year veteran of the department. Those acts include making improper arrests and targeting individuals. It was not until September 2013, the Sgt. Ray Fernandez was finally fired.

After months of ignoring the problem, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor fired Fernandez for lack of truthfulness, misuse of authority, and failure to meet the department’s standards of conduct, professional responsibility, and philosophy of enforcement.

The scandal revolved around an arrest on January 23, 2013. That arrest involved the DUI arrest of Campbell, who was in the middle of a high-profile defamation trial between dueling radio disc jockeys “MJ” Todd Schnitt and Bubba the Love Sponge Clem. The DUI accusation was set up by his opposing counsel, who used their pretty paralegal and their connections with Sgt. Ray Fernandez to target the attorney and set him up for a DUI arrest.

In the aftermath of the scandal, TPD formed a six-member team, made up of a judge, a prosecutor, a state law enforcement official, and three Tampa police officers. That team recommended nine changes to the existing TPD DUI enforcement policy, including video cameras in patrol cars of DUI squad supervisors, expansion of field sobriety tests, and requiring more detailed reports.

The TPD DUI enforcement unit was also decentralized into four squads operating in each of the four districts.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn made a statement about the scandal with Tampa Police Department’s DUI Unit after the scandal could no longer be ignored. He released the following statement:

“Over the last week, Chief Castor has decentralized the DUI unit and assembled a team of trusted professionals from both inside and outside of the department to review Fernandez and McGinnis’ cases as well as random sampling of other DUI cases. These steps can assure the public that the Tampa Police Department handles DUI cases appropriately and that the department will continue to serve our community with the integrity and professionalism it is recognized for.

“The actions of any one individual should not reflect on the entire department. The fate of the officer involved in the incident will be determined at a later date, but the larger issue of how the DUI unit operates is being dealt with today. Rest assured that if the investigation proves incompetence or a gross violation of the officer involved, actions will be swift and appropriate.”

Update on TPD’s Latest DUI’s Scandal

On November 8, 2013, the Tampa Police Department’s grievance response team denied Sgt. Ray Fernandez’s appeal to get his job back after it found the discipline administered was appropriate.

Sgt. Raymond “Ray” Fernandez was the supervisor of the Tampa Police Department’s DUI unit. In May of 2013, he was removed from that position and relocated to a desk job with the special operations division coordinating security at events throughout the City of Tampa. He subsequently resigned from TPD.

Although the Tampa Police Department (“TPD”) said the move was not part of a disciplinary action, it came at a time when Sgt. Ray Fernandez was under investigation for engaging in civil rights violations, official misconduct, and malicious prosecution related to the stop and arrest of an attorney in Tampa named C. Philip Campbell, Jr., on January 23, 2013.

In early August of 2013, the Chief of Police for the Tampa Police Department, Jane Castor, announced that she would reorganize TPD’s DUI enforcement unit in an effort to provide “more supervision and more oversight.”

Starting August 4, 2013, the TPD DUI enforcement unit will be spread out from one chain of command to three districts. So instead of Sgt. Ray Fernandez supervises the 12 DUI enforcement officers, TPD will now have the district commanders of each of the three districts supervise the DUI enforcement officers.

Previously, TPD’s DUI enforcement unit includes twelve (12) uniformed officers, two (2) Corporals, and Sergeant Ray Fernandez. The TPD DUI unit works seven days a week, focusing on patrols and backup for other officers during the evening and early morning hours.

Although the City of Tampa has about one-third of the total population in Hillsborough County, the Tampa Police Department makes about nearly one-half of the arrests for DUI cases in the entire county. In 2011, officers with the Tampa Police Department made 2,188 arrests for DUI.

Additional Resources

Tampa Police Department’s DUI Unit – Read more about the Tampa Police Department’s DUI enforcement efforts, including information on in-car video systems to record everything from the traffic pattern to field sobriety exercises to the arrest to the transportation to the jail. This page on TPD’s DUI enforcement unit also provides information on common DUI myths, its relationship with the Hillsborough County Chapter of MADD, TPD’s Wolfpack Operation, and TPD’s list of the 10 ten arrest locations.

Tampa Police Department Headquarters
One Police Center
411 N. Franklin Street
Tampa, Florida 33602
The TPD media relations department uses social media efforts, including Twitter and videos on YouTube to remind drivers of the dangers of drinking and driving.

Tampa Police Department Records Section – Call (813) 276-3250 for inquiries concerning reports kept by the Tampa Police Department’s Records Section.

Tampa Police Department Delayed Crime Reporting– TPD wants you to use this service to report crimes that are non-emergency crimes handled by the TPD District Latent Investigation Squads. These crimes include Identity Theft, Lost or Found Property, Vehicle Burglary, Grand and Petty Thefts, Stolen Tags and Vehicles, Forgeries, Criminal Mischief (Vandalism), Harassing or Threatening Phone Calls, and Lost or Stolen Cellular Phones.

Mayor Buckhorn’s Statement on the Tampa Police Department’s DUI Unit – Visit the City of Tampa website to find the latest statement issued by Tampa’s former mayor, Bob Buckhorn, who addressed recent problems with the DUI Unit of the Tampa Police Department. Changes included decentralizing the DUI unit and reviewing several random sampling of DUI cases.

TPD Standard Operating Procedures (PDF 12 MB) – Read more about the standard operating procedures required for DUI enforcement officers with the TPD, including a requirement that the entire DUI investigation is audio and video recorded.

Finding an Attorney after a DUI Arrest by TPD

Call a DUI attorney with the Sammis Law Firm to discuss your DUI arrest and encounter with a DUI enforcement officer with the Tampa Police Department. We focus on DUI cases in Hillsborough County, Florida. Let us put our experience to work for you.

We represent clients after a DUI involving a breath test, blood test, or urine test. We also represent clients accused of refusing to submit to a chemical test after a DUI arrest.

Read more about our DUI case results after an arrest by a DUI enforcement officer with TPD.

Call (813) 250-0500.

This article was last updated on Friday, February 18, 2023.