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DUI in Pinellas County

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After an arrest for DUI in Pinellas County, FL, the case might be prosecuted in the North County Traffic Court or the Pinellas County Justice Center (“CJC”) in Clearwater.

Effective on January 1, 2019, the South County Traffic Facility closed. All criminal traffic cases pending in South County Traffic Court were relocated to the CJC on 49th Street in Clearwater, FL, as explained in Administrative Order No. 2018-058 PI-CIR.

Within ten (10) days after the DUI arrest, you should hire an attorney to demand a formal review hearing to contest the administrative suspension of your driver’s license.

Your demand for a formal review hearing should be submitted to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle (DHSMV) Bureau of Administrative Reviews (B.A.R.) office in Clearwater.

Although some people might tell you to waive all your rights by seeking immediate reinstatement of your hardship driving privileges, demanding the formal review hearing is the only way to challenge the administrative suspension and get it removed from your driving record.

Don’t waive your rights to a formal review hearing until after you speak with an experienced DUI attorney at the pros and cons of each approach. Find out why we always recommend demanding the formal review hearing and contesting the administrative suspension.

Attorneys for DUI Defense in Pinellas County, FL

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (“DUI”), then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for Pinellas County, FL, to discuss your case today.

Contact us for a free consultation. When you come to the appointment, bring a copy of any documents you received when you were released from the jail including:

  • the DUI citation;
  • the notice of the administrative suspension of your driver’s license;
  • any Florida Uniform Traffic Citations;
  • the complaint/arrest affidavit from the Circuit / County Court in Pinellas County:
  • the criminal report affidavit; and
  • the subject charge report from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office or another local agency.

Many of our clients are arrested for a first DUI with no prior criminal record. We work hard to protect our clients driving privileges, their criminal record, and their good name.

We also help clients with violation of probation or violation of pre-trial release in Pinellas County, FL. Some violations involve the continuous alcohol monitoring “CAM” or “SCRAM” device for a breath alcohol concentration (“BrAC”) reading or another violation of the participation agreement.

Contact us today to discuss your case directly with an attorney either over the phone or in the office. Call 813-250-0500.

Ten (10) Days After Your Arrest to Protect Your Driver’s License

After your DUI arrest, you only have ten (10) days to request a formal review hearing with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) in Clearwater, Florida, to protect your driver’s license from an administrative suspension.

A formal review hearing is an important step in the process of fighting your DUI that allows your DUI Defense attorney to gather important evidence that might otherwise be lost with the passage of time.

The formal review hearing allows your lawyer to question each of the witnesses against you under oath, including:

  • the officer that conducted the stop of your vehicle;
  • the DUI enforcement officer that made the arrest;
  • the breath test operator (BTO) that either took the breath sample or witnessed the alleged refusal to submit; and
  • the agency inspector who maintains the breath test instrument used in your case.

If you allegedly refused to take a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine, the arresting officer may be the primary witness against you.

In DUI BAC refusal cases, it is important that the arresting officer is cross-examined under oath during the hearing about how the alleged refusal occurred.

Sometimes evidence gained during the formal review hearing can make a big difference in how the criminal part of the case is resolved in court.

Your attorney can use the formal review hearing as a way to uncover defenses and lock the witnesses into their testimony.

Notice of the Telephonic Formal Review Hearing

If you demand a formal review hearing within 10 days of the DUI arrest in Pinellas County, FL, then the Bureau of Administrative Reviews will send you a notice of a telephonic formal review hearing and prehearing order that provides:

Your formal review hearing, pursuant to section 322.2615 and/or section 322.64, Florida Statutes and chapter 15A-6, Florida Administrative Code for a refusal to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test, or a BAC level of .08 or above has been scheduled at the Bureau of Administrative Review office at 4585 140th Avenue North, Suite 1002, Claarwater, FL, 33762, 727-507-4405, ClearwaterBAR@FLHSMV.gov on [date] at [time]. Telephone numbers provided must be landline numbers, cellular telephone numbers are not accepted.

The notice will list the number you provided. If the hearing officer fails to reach you after two attempts, then it will be deemed to be a waiver of the right to formal review, unless just cause is showing in writing within two days of the hearing.

The notice includes a Driver’s Prehearing Statement form which must be completed and returned to the above address within 10 days of the date of this notice, along with a proposed subpoena(s) if requested, for DHSMV seal and DHSMV employee signature and a stamped self-address envelope. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, the hearing officers have started accepting and issuing the subpoenas by email as well.

The Prehearing Statement should state with specificity those disputed issues of law and fact and summarize the anticipated testimony of all witnesses.

At the hearing, the hearing officer will determine by a preponderance of the evidence presented whether sufficient cause exists to sustain, amend, or invalidate the suspension or disqualification.

What Happens if I Don’t Request a Formal Review Hearing?

If you fail to act within ten (10) days of your drunk driving or DUI arrest in Pinellas County, FL, then your driver’s license will be revoked for at least six (6) months if you blew over the legal limit, or twelve (12) months if you allegedly refused to take the breath test.

A thirty (30) day hard suspension follows the six (6) month suspension which means that you can not drive a vehicle in Florida for thirty (30) days for any reason and you are not eligible for a hardship or business purposes only driver’s license.

If you allegedly refused to take the breath test a ninety (90) day hard suspension will result, meaning that you may not drive for any reason during the first ninety (90) days and you are not eligible for a business purpose only or hardship license during that period.

One way to avoid suffering the thirty-day or ninety-day hard suspension and six month or twelve-month suspension is to hire an attorney for your case in Pinellas County, FL, to fight the administrative suspension of your driver license by requesting a formal review hearing during the ten (10) days after your arrest.

If you enroll in DUI school and have no prior DUI suspensions, then you can stipulate that you were DUI for administrative purposes and obtain immediate reinstatement. If you stipulate to the suspension, then it will remain on your record for 75 years.

The only exception to that rule is that if you blow over the legal limit and obtain a “not guilty” verdict at trial, then the administrative suspension will be removed from your driving record. If you alleged refused, then even after a “not guilty” verdict at trial the administrative suspension will remain on your driving record.

Before you waive any of your rights, call us to discuss the case at (813) 250-0500.

Creation of the DUI Enforcement Unit in Pinellas County

The DUI Enforcement Unit has been eliminated by Sheriff Jim Coats in 2008 because of budget cuts.

Five years later, in 2013, the DUI enforcement unit was reinstated by Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. During that five year period when the DUI enforcement unit was eliminated, fewer DUI arrests occurred in Pinellas County.

The DUI enforcement unit in Pinellas County helps coordinate “Wolf Pack” saturation operations and the occasional DUI checkpoints.

Deputies in the PCSO on the DUI enforcement unit receive special training. Many of these deputies are certified DUI Instructors or Drug Recognition Experts, a program recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

When Will I Get the Test Results Back from a Blood or Urine Test?

If you were arrested for DUI in Pinellas County, FL, you might be asked to submit to a urine or blood test to determine whether any controlled substances were present in your urine.

After the submission, the State Attorney’s Office should have the results back within two months if the sample was sent for analysis to the Pinellas County Forensic Laboratory at 10900 Ulmerton Road, Largo, FL 33778.

Pinellas County often uses its own lab instead of sending the sample to the crime lab at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

The lab will test the results sooner if one of the following circumstances occurred:

  1. the pending DUI is a felony charge;
  2. there was a traffic accident related to the submission; and
  3. the subject is the driver.

The request for the toxicological analysis also requires written disclosure of whether suspected controlled substances were confiscated and whether the subjected admitted to using any drugs.

Where needed, either the prosecutor or a criminal defense attorney can send the specimens off to an approved external laboratory for additional analyses. Also, if the BAC level exceeds 0.100 g/dl then the drug analysis will not usually be performed.

The typical analysis performed is a basic drug screen with GC-MS Confirmation and LE3-LE Immunoassay Drug Screen for:

  • amphetamines;
  • benzadiazepines;
  • cannabinoids;
  • carisoprodol;
  • cocaine metabolites;
  • fentayl metabolites and analogs;
  • methamphetamine / MDMA;
  • methadeon metabolites; and
  • opiates.

The lab will also perform analyses for Carboxy-THC Screen and Confirmation. The most common substance found during the urine test is 11-Nor-delta-9-carboxy-THC which is the inactive metabolite found in the urine sometimes days or weeks after it is consumed.

In many of these cases, unless other arrangements are made, blood or urine specimens will be discarded after a minimum two-year retention. Drug analyses and reporting are limited to identifiable controlled substances as defined by FSS 893 and 877.

Blood alcohol results for specimens collect and/or analyzed in accordance with Florida Administrative Code 11D. Blood drug quantitation will be done upon request by the State Attorney’s Office.

There is no correlation between urine and blood concentration, and therefore, no quantitations will be performed on urine specimens.

The three types of drug classes included in the respective immunoassay screens are specifically targeted in the analysis process:

  • DUI Panel – LE3 (for cases with incident dates prior to 7/1/18)
  • DUI Panel – LE5
  • Non-DUI (includes sexual assault victim’s specimens).

The statistical confidence interval for drug concentrations established by in-house analysis are as follows:

  • Ethanol ~ 99.7%
  • All other quantitations ~ 95%

DUI specimens will be tested for GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) upon request and only if the date/time of collection is within 12 hours of the date/time of the incident and the suspect’s behavior or performance is consistent with GHB usage.

Sexual assault victim’s specimens will routinely be tested for GHB if the data/time of collection is within 12 hours of the date/time of the incident.

Other drugs may be detected and/or identified using additional analytical techniques (gas chromatography-mass spectrometry).

Agencies Making a DUI Arrest in Pinellas County, FL

If you were arrested for DUI in Pinellas County, FL, the arresting officer was probably from one of the local law enforcement agencies listed below.

Each agency creates its own standard operating procedures and other rules for conducting DUI investigations. Agencies in Pinellas County that conduct DUI investigations include:

  • St. Petersburg Police Department
  • Clearwater Police Department
  • Pinellas Park Police Department
  • Gulfport Police Department
  • Tarpon Springs Police Department
  • Kenneth City Police Department
  • Largo Police Department

The Florida Highway Patrol also conducts DUI investigations in Pinellas County, especially DUI investigations that arise during a crash investigation.

Forms Used in a PCSO DUI

After a DUI arrest by an officer with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the arresting officer will file out a “Pinellas County Standardized Field Sobriety Test Form.” The form is a worksheet that the officer is supposed to use while conducting the DUI investigation.

The form instructed the officer to ask the following health questions prior to conducting SFSE:

  1. Are you sick or injured?
    • If “Yes,” what is wrong?
  2. Do you have any physical defects?
  3. Are you diabetic?
  4. Do you take insulin?
  5. Are you epileptic?
  6. Do you take Dilantin?
  7. Are you under the are of a doctor or dentist?
    • If “Yes,” who?
  8. Do you have a glass eye?
  9. Are you wearing contacts?

The worksheet also gives the officer boxes to check related to observations including:

  • Odor of Breath
  • Conditions of eyes
  • Speech
  • Condition of face
  • Dexterity
  • Clothing
  • Unusual Actions
  • Attitude
  • Emotional
  • Exit Vehicle
  • Walking to roadside
  • Standing
  • Location
  • Lighting
  • Surface
  • Video

The form has boxes for the following psychophysical evaluations:

  • the walk and turn exercise
  • the one-leg stand
  • the HGN
  • finger-to-nose
  • the Rhomberg Alphabet

The form also contains a “driver interview” section which requires the officer to read Miranda and ask the following questions:

  • Where are you coming from?
  • Where are you going?
  • What street are you on?
  • What was your direction of travel?
  • Have you been drinking?
  • What have you been drinking?
  • When did you start?
  • When did you stop?
  • Have you been smoking marijuana?
  • How much did you consume?
  • When did you last eat?
  • When did you last sleep?
  • How much sleep did you have?
  • Any mechanical problems with your vehicle?
  • Are you taking medication?
  • Were you involved in a crash today?
  • Do you feel the effects of the alcoholic beverage or drugs you consumed?
  • In our opinion, are you under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs?

For DUI investigations conducted by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the officers are taught to fill out an Implied Consent for DUI in a Motor Vehicle form.

What Happens to Officers in Pinellas County Arrested for DUI?

Since the Sheriff’s Office and the local law enforcement agencies in Pinellas County take such an aggressive position when investigating DUI cases, what happens when one of their own is caught drunk driving?

In many cases, the officer or deputy is never arrested. But when a DUI arrest does occur, it almost always results in the law enforcement officer losing their job.

On March 18, 2018, a lieutenant with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. The investigation showed that a civilian called the Sheriff’s Office to report that a vehicle was honking its horn in the neighborhood.

When PCSO deputies arrived at the scene, they found a 41-year-old lieutenant driving her vehicle in reverse and honking the horn for unknown reasons. The lieutenant failed a field sobriety exercise. After the arrest, the lieutenant failed a breathalyzer test with a BAC of .13-.14. The lieutenant was fired from her job shortly thereafter.

On August 25, 2018, it was reported that a corporal in the Patrol Operations Bureau of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office was arrested and charged with DUI. The corporal in the was arrested for DUI after deputies with the PCSO found his vehicle crashed into a telephone pole and tree. Immediately after the arrest, the corporal was terminated from his employment with PCSO. According to officials at the sheriff’s office, terminating the corporate was consistent with the policy of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office policy.

On January 4, 2019, a 48-year-old Pinellas County Sheriff’s detective in the homicide unit was arrested for DUI which caused him to lose his job shortly thereafter. The detective was caught driving drunk after traveling to a crime scene in an unmarked PCSO vehicle from his home. When he arrived at the scene, other patrol deputies noticed him drive up to the scene. As he was exiting his vehicle, it became obvious that he had obvious signs of impairment including bloodshot and glassy eyes, slurred speech, and a distinct odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his breath.

The deputies then began a DUI investigation and asked the detective to perform Field Sobriety Exercises. After performing poorly on the exercises, he provided a breath sample in the Intoxilyzer 8000 with a BrAC reading of .129/.134. Consistent with the policy of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office regarding members arrested for DUI, the homicide detective was immediately terminated from his job.

Additional Resources

Pinellas County Sheriff’s DUI Unit – Visit the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office to find information on DUI investigations and a list of active calls. Find information on DUI immobilization and impoundment services. The website contains a list of DUI checkpoints in Pinellas County in 2018 and 2019. The majority of arrests in Pinellas County are made by the DUI unit. For instance, In 2007 the Pinellas County Sheriff’s DUI Unit posted 888 arrests in 2007 or 67% of the total DUI arrests for the entire agency.

Clearwater Bureau of Administrative Review – As a division of the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, you must make a request for a formal review hearing through the Bureau of Administrative Review in at the following location after a DUI arrest in Pinellas County, FL.

4585 140th Avenue
Clearwater, Florida 33762
727-507-4404 or 727-507-4405

DUI school in Pinellas County – Suncoast Safety Council – Only licensed DUI school program for anyone who lives, works, or goes to school in Pinellas County, FL, even if your DUI arrest occurred elsewhere. Call (727) 373-SAFE (7233) for more information. Register on-line for classes at one of the following locations:

Clearwater DUI School Office
1145 Court Street
Clearwater, FL 33756
St. Peterburg DUI School Office
455 31st St. North
St. Petersburg, FL 33713
Palm Harbor DUI School
1500 16th Street
Palm Harbor, FL 34683

Level I – DUI School in Pinellas County – Anyone who is arrested for DUI may be required to complete the Suncoast Safety Council Level I DUI school in Pinellas County as part of the requirements to obtain or reinstate a driver’s license after an administrative suspension even if they ultimately avoid a DUI conviction in court.

  • For an individual who has never been arrested for DUI the Level I course will be required. The Level I DUI course requires 12 hours of classroom instruction and a drug and alcohol evaluation and completion of recommended follow-up treatment.
  • The DUI Level I program can be completed at the Clearwater, Palm Harbor or St. Petersburg location.
  • The fee for the Level I DUI school in Pinellas County is $245 which includes the State Assessment fee, the lifetime Florida driving record, and the Driver Risk Inventory questionnaire.

Level II – DUI School in Pinellas County – The Suncoast Safety Council Level II DUI school in Pinellas County is often referred to as the “Repeat Offender” education course which requires 21 hours of classroom instruction at the Clearwater, Palm Harbor or St. Petersburg location.

  • Many people want to know if they are required to take the Level I or Level II D.U.I. course. The simple answer is that if you have ever been arrested for DUI before, then you will probably be required to take the Level II course even if the prior DUI arrest or conviction does not show up on your lifetime Florida driving record because you will be required to disclose the fact that the prior DUI arrested occurred.
  • In addition to the 21 hours of classroom instruction, the Level II DUI school requires a substance abuse evaluation and completion of any recommended follow-up treatment.
  • The fee for the Pinellas County Level II DUI course is $375 which includes the state assessment fee, a copy of your lifetime Florida driving record, and the driver risk inventory questionnaire.

Special Defenses for Women Charged with DUI – For women charged with DUI in Pinellas County, Florida, including Clearwater or St. Petersburg, certain defenses may apply to your case.

Attorney for the DUI Case in Pinellas County, FL

You must not only fight the administrative suspension with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), but you must also fight the criminal case in County Court in Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida, for a misdemeanor DUI arrest.

If you were charged with a felony DUI case, then you must fight your Felony DUI case in the Circuit Court in Pinellas County.

Your DUI Attorney for Clearwater, FL can defend your DUI case by aggressively filing and litigating all viable motions, including motions to suppress, motions to exclude, and motions to dismiss the DUI charges against you.

Furthermore, hiring an attorney that will be prepared to take your DUI case to trial to fight for a “not guilty” verdict may put you in the best position to avoid a DUI conviction.

Many of these DUI cases in Pinellas County are reduced to reckless driving or some other disposition that allows you to avoid a DUI conviction.

Contact an attorney to discuss your Pinellas County DUI arrest to find out what DUI defenses might exist under Florida law and the particular facts and circumstances of your DUI case.

We represent clients arrest for DUI by any of the following local law enforcement agencies:

  • Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office;
  • St. Petersburg Police Department;
  • Clearwater Police Department;
  • Florida Highway Patrol;
  • Kenneth City Police Department;
  • Largo Police Department;
  • Gulfport Police Department;
  • Tarpon Springs Police Department; and
  • Pinellas Park Police Department;

Our attorneys are also familiar with the procedures used during the DUI Wolfpack operation in Pinellas County, FL.

At Sammis Law Firm, P.A., you can set up a phone or office consultation to speak with a DUI lawyer today about your Pinellas County DUI arrest and prosecution.

Obtaining an experienced and aggressive DUI attorney early in the process is one of the most important decisions you will make in fighting your case to avoid driving under the influence or drunk driving (DUI) conviction.

Drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) cases are handled differently in Pinellas County, whether your arrest occurred in St. Petersburg or Clearwater, Florida.

Call (813) 250-0500 today to speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney for drunk and impaired driving cases pending at the courthouse in Clearwater, Pinellas County, FL.

This article was last updated on Thursday, July 23, 2020.

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