Fort Lauderdale DUI Defense Attorney, John Contini is experienced in representing all types of criminal cases. DUI arrests are unique because they can affect anyone and often the penalties for drunk driving are very harsh. DUI charges can be very costly and even cause you to loose your job, and driving privileges, which seriously impact your freedom and independence.
The Law Offices of John P. Contini is prepared to use their resources and knowledge to defend you right away. Our DUI defense lawyers don’t waste any time when it comes to preparing your defense. We will obtain evidence and gather statements to support your case and ensure your freedom and rights are protected.
A Fort Lauderdale DUI Lawyer Can Help
There are many things that can be done to make sure your DUI arrest does not negatively impact your future. The first step is to hire an experienced For Lauderdale DUI defense lawyer. Seeking well qualified and experienced representation is a big step in the right direction to secure your freedom after a DUI arrest.
The DUI defense attorneys in Fort Lauderdale at the Law Offices of John P. Contini are here are ready to help. Contact us today at 954-766-8810 for a FREE consultation with a Fort Lauderdale DUI Lawyer who wants to help you!
Q. “If a police officer asks me to get out of my car and do these roadside drunk tests, do I have to do them?”
A. No. There is no legal requirement that you do these “roadside sobriety tests,” which they now call “field sobriety exercises” – since the Supreme Court disallowed “tests.” You cannot be arrested for the separate offense of “refusal to obey police officer,” for exercising your legal right to refuse to perform these “tests” or “exercises.” If you are arrested, it will not be a consequence of your refusal to perform these tests; it will be for the offense of DUI – for which you were going to be arrested by the same officer anyway!
The officer will inform you that your license will be suspended for 12 months for a 1st “refusal” to do the breathalyzer and 18 months for a 2nd refusal – and recently, they just made it a separate crime, a misdemeanor, for the “refusal” itself; but even with that, most folks rightfully refuse and take that administrative suspension risk and even that separate misdemeanor, rather than supply the prosecution with terribly damaging evidence of a high “blood alcohol level” (BAL) or breathalyzer reading – an almost certain jury conviction, assuming you’ve had a lot to drink, etc. Even with the separate “administrative” suspension for the “refusal,” your lawyer can get you a “work permit” so you’re better off refusing *if you know you’ll blow high on the breathalyzer …
You are not required to perform the roadsides – and almost nobody sober can do those! In fact, we get the officer to step down in front of the jury and demonstrate the “roadside” “tests,” and while nervous in court (like anyone else doing these “tests” on the street – with cars passing by at significant speeds with headlights in your face, while on gravel, with police lights strobing all about you), the officers invariably make a “mistake” on the same tests, so avoid doing the tests that only serve to give the officer things to write about, e.g., “the defendant missed their nose on the finger to nose test,” etc.
Q. “What do you do if you’re in an accident?”
Answer: Blame the other guy no matter what, since that’s what everyone else is doing.
The better answer: Call 911 and get emergency medical help immediately, assuming you’re physically able. You may be in shock and in trauma, and your injuries may not fully manifest themselves or be apparent to you for some time – or until after the shock and trauma wears off ; so again, ‘better to be safe than sorry,” and allow the paramedics to observe and treat you! Call your parents from your cell phone as soon as possible after the accident, and give them your location.
Be aware of the witnesses to the accident and attempt to prevail upon the witnesses to provide you with their names and contact information. Do NOT leave the scene under any circumstances before the police and paramedics arrive, lest you be arrested for the crime of “leaving the scene of an accident.” It will be a felony charge of “leaving the scene of an accident with injuries,” if someone is injured in the accident.
Q. “If someone gets drunk in my home and they end up hurting someone in a wreck, am I in trouble?”
A. If lawyers get involved, “yes.” Lawyers always get involved today, so the answer is always “yes.”Here is why:
If someone gets drunk at your house and you gave them enough alcohol to allow for them to get “impaired” and “over the limit” in DUI cases (.08 blood alcohol level” in Florida) – and they then get into a car accident resulting in death or serious injuries, you will be sued. A lawyer representing the injured person or the family of the person killed, will start with your homeowner’s policy, and build from there; but:
They just made it a little better for the homeowner or bar owners, inasmuch as the plaintiff must now prove that those who served the alcohol *knew* in advance of the drunk’s propensity to drink too much. This makes it easier for the bar owner and/or homeowner to ultimately prevail in the lawsuit.
Q. “Can I be charged with DUI when all I took was my own prescription medication?”
A. Absolutely, and it happens all the time. If your “own prescription medication” caused you to be “impaired” or “under the influence” of that particular “controlled substance” while “operating a motor vehicle,” then yes, absolutely, you can be charged under these circumstances with DUI.
Q. What do you do if you’re asked to take a breathalyzer test?
A. Inquire as to whether the officer knows if a 2 pencil is required for this test. Better answer: If you were not drinking alcohol, take the breath test. Why? If you refuse to take the breathalyzer/intoxilyzer test – and assuming the police officer had the requisite “cause” to request that you take the test, then you will suffer a “license revocation” of at least 12 months in most jurisdictions.
Q. ”Why are they prosecuting people for felonies and putting them away in State Prisons for drunk driving cases?”
A. ”Most States are doing this now, if they find from a criminal history (background check) “NCIC” (National Crime Information Check) that the individual has at least two (2) prior DUI or DWI (“driving under the influence” or “driving while intoxicated”) convictions in their life — and worse news for repeat offenders Most States are permitted to go back as far as their records/data collection allow — as far back as 20 years, to resurrect the prior offenses as predicate acts, to establish the current “felony DUI” charge and prosecution. In that case, sadly enough, the many productive years of sobriety in between the new offense and the very old, historical offenses, is unfortunately rendered meaningless.”
I have a heart for people who suffer the embarrassment and shame of being arrested for Driving under the Influence … and we all know, the suffering goes well beyond embarrassment and shame — it includes the loss of your income and possibly even your job, along with the loss of your driving privileges (for a time)and certainly the loss of your freedom or liberty for some time too, as you suffer tremendous financial hardship from the consequential, unexpected expenses as well.
What can be done? Many things can be done, and these things SHOULD be done, and they should be done sooner rather than later. There are very narrow and exact, finite time periods involved, and you need to know of these time constraints, in order to preserve your rights and driving privileges. We at the Law Offices of John P. Contini will help you and your family immediately.
We will file what is called a “Petition for a Formal Review Hearing” [and this must be done within the first ten (10) days following your arrest!] in order to immediately restore your driving privileges.
Simultaneously, we will seek and secure copies of any and all police reports, “alcohol influence reports,” accident reports (if any) and any and all supplemental police reports filed by the involved law enforcement officers.
If you’re alleged to have ‘refused’ a breath test, or if you’ve taken the ‘breath test’ — in either case, we will secure copies of any and all documentation which exists on this issue too, as we also secure a defense copy of your ‘DVD’ or ‘video.’ Your DVD or videotaped image is typically taken as footage from the police cruiser “dashboard” or “car cam,” but just as often, this will include the footage of your performance of the “roadside sobriety tests” or “exercises” on the side of the road. We will obtain a copy of this footage right away.
The State prosecutors (those within the State Attorney’s Office in any one of the 67 Florida counties) must officially “file” your DUI charge/arrest, within twenty one (21) days of your arrest; and this affords your defense lawyer another significant window period of time within which to significantly help you. If we are your lawyers, we will visit the prosecutors to provide them with any and all mitigation material (i.e., “humanizing” material and information about you and your unique life and family) along with any and all possible “exculpatory” (exonerating) information that may persuade the prosecutors NOT to file this DUI charge against you.
When you’re arrested in Florida or Massachusetts — or almost anywhere else in the nation for that matter, on the charge of “Driving Under (‘DUI’) the Influence” of alcohol, the prosecution must prove ‘beyond every reasonable doubt’ that you were ‘under the influence’ of ALCOHOL and not prescription drugs or any other drug. This is just one (1) of the most immediate and critically important issues in your case.
The State (called the “prosecution”) must prove “beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt,” that you were “under the influence of a controlled substance,” *if they choose to allege that you were under the influence of drugs as opposed to alcohol; so again, it is critically important to first know and establish WHICH ‘necessary elements” the State and Prosecutors MUST prove.
Your lawyers always have the readily available defense that you may not have been under the influence of anything other than “sleep deprivation,” since the reality of sleep deprivation is a hugely pervasive problem in America today, and more and more people are becoming increasingly aware of this national issue:
We cross examine the arresting police officer in such as way as to significantly increase the likelihood of winning your case in trial, or before trial, prevailing upon the prosecution to reduce the charge to a lesser offense, dropping the DUI charge.
The following is just a brief example of how we do this:
The police officer cannot possibly know your normal speech pattern or whether you speak with a slight lipse or an accent — especially in this multi cultural society in urban cities today; and this is just one area in which we quite easily impeach the officer’s testimony on cross examination, as you’ll see:
“It’s fair to say, isn’t it officer Dokes, that you’ve never spoken with Mr. Jones (“my client”) before?
“That’s true,” the officer will respond.
“So you have no way of knowing what his normal speech sounds like, whether he articulates every syllable or speaks with a slight drawl or a lipse or an accent, right?”
“Well, that’s correct.”
There goes the effect of the officer’s earlier testimony (on direct examination by the prosecutor) when the officer testified that you “had slurred speech.”
Then, as to the separate, damning testimony from the police officer, as to your “red” or “bloodshot eyes,” this testimony we also impeach on “cross,” as you’ll see:
“You’ve never seen my client’s eyes before that night, isn’t that right officer Dokes?”
“So you have no way of knowing, officer Dokes, whether Mr. Jones had been swimming earlier in the day, or whether he had been working two jobs all day and was otherwise extremely tired and sleep deprived — and our eyes get reddened under these circumstances too, isn’t that right?”
“Yeah, that’s right, but –”
And of course, we won’t allow the officer to camp out on the stand and attempt to rehabilitate himself and add salt to his earlier testimony, quickly moving on to another quick question:
“And studies have shown that most people are driving around later at night quite sleep deprived, and more accidents occur when people fall asleep at the wheel UNRELATED to any alcohol or drugs — just from being very tired and sleep deprived, isn’t that true officer?”
“I wouldn’t know about that.”
“You asked him to perform certain roadside sobriety tests that night, officer, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did.”
“And you had him do these tests on the side of the road, true?”
And yet it was dark outside, and the roadside was not paved, but instead was uneven with gravel, and cars were speeding by, their headlights flashing, as he was trying to do your tests?”
“Well, no, it was dark, but we were far enough away from cars and the road was flat.”
“Your report noted that he failed the ‘heel to toe’ walking test, inasmuch as he missed touching the ‘heel’ of his one foot, with the ‘toe’ of his other foot … but isn’t it true that your own police cruiser’s overhead lights were activated and strobing in a circular fashion all about you two — just as the highlights from oncoming vehicles were flashing into his eyes, and it was under these challenging. circumstances, that he was asked to perform these tests?”
Many times, we will ask the Judge to instruct the police officer to come down off the witness stand, to demonstrate for the jury how it is that he can perform these tests himself — and invariably, the police officer will miss the mark on one of these same sobriety tests, prompting this sort of questioning:
“Isn’t it true, officer Dokes, that you just failed to stay on one leg and keep your balance in this same balancing test you gave to my client, Mr. Jones?”
Before he even answers, or regardless of the embarrassment or the answer, the question is followed up this way:
“This isn’t something you’re used to, in fairness to you, officer, standing here a bit nervous in this courtroom asked to perform in front of this jury which is not your own environment — just like it’s not what Mr. Jones was used to, nervous late at night in the dark on the side of the road with cars speeding by, also a bit nervous like you in an environment not his own, right?
We continue to impeach the officer’s credibility on the witness stand, by these and many other questions designed to illustrate the unfairness of these roadside sobriety ‘tests’ or ‘exercises’ as they’re calling them now (ie., the prosecutors are now calling them ‘exercises’ since the Supreme Court has declared roadside ‘tests’ to be unconstitutional) and we then attack the admissibility and credibility of the breath test as well:
[FYI: The machines are either the infamous 'breathalyzer' or 'intoxilyzer' that tests for the 'blood alcohol ('B.A.L.') level in an individual's blood.]
These are only a few sample questions that illustrate how we might cross examine and impeach the police officer, to undermine the credibility of the alleged breath test result:
“Many other people blew into the machine that night, isn’t that true?”
“You’re not the officer who is responsible for properly maintaining this machine, ensuring that it is often inspected in a timely fashion as it must be, and that the machine is properly calibrated at the periodic times as required, and that it is stored in a safe place, and not bouncing around in some police van, isn’t that true officer Dokes?”
“Your own police cruiser — like our computers and appliances and all other machines in our life, they don’t always work right, and sometimes they break down and need to be repaired and adjusted to work right, isn’t that true officer Dokes?”
Our cross examination of the police officer as to the breath test ‘result,’ and as to his testimony concerning your performance in the roadside sobriety ‘tests’ or ‘exercises,’ will expose and highlight the ‘reasonable doubt’ that surrounds the issue of whether you were ‘under the influence’ of alcohol.
We enjoy helping you and your family or friends. Please feel free to send me an email or call me right away, if your family (or anyone you care about) suffers from the ordeal or a DUI arrest and prosecution. If you would like my immediate help, remember, time is critical in these situations.
DUI & the holidays, for you and your loved ones The brutal truth:
There are 319 bars on 3rd street in LaCrosse Wisconsin. I know — I was there, and sadly enough, I bounced between too many of them to count. Last I knew, this particular street is in the Guinness Book of world records for the most number of bars on one street.
Multiply this one statistic, times all the other bars on all the other streets in every town and city in America, and is it any wonder we’re a nation of alcoholics leading the world in DUI deaths and Manslaughter convictions and prison population? That’s right, we just passed China for number 1 on planet Earth for per capita prison population.
But the lawmakers keep on licensing new bars — they like campaign contributions from the folks who can afford to open these establishments, and they really like that new money for their expansive city budgets, you know, even as they go about curiously lowering the legal limit of alcohol. They like to sound tough on crime to get reelected, pandering to their constituents and groups like “Mothers Against (M.A.D.D.) Drunk Drivers” in running their gums about the carnage on our nation’s highways, even as they nurse a few glasses of wine or throw down some of the finest scotch before driving home from the capitol. These are the schmucks who create the mandatory prison sentences for the guys and gals who do the same thing they’re doing, drinking and driving. The only difference?
The poor souls who didn’t write these laws, don’t have the money to get out of the mandatory minimum prison sentences, while the lawmakers themselves can afford the right lawyers and experts to mount the right defense against the very laws they write.
The lawmakers decide down the road to create “exceptions” and “downward departures” and “variances” from the otherwise applicable “mandatory minimum” jail and prison sentences and sentencing guidelines; but it’s interesting, isn’t it, that these “exceptions” and “downward departures” and “variances” don’t get written into the “amended” laws and statutes until one of their own gets jammed up with a “DUI Manslaughter,” ie, drinking, driving and inadvertently having an “accident” resulting in another’s death. Bottom line:
Drink, drive, have an accident, nobody gets really hurt, and you score only probation, no jail; but …
Drink, drive, have an accident and someone dies, you’re off to see the wizard. God forbid someone dies or suffers “serious bodily injury,” then with that “mere fortuity” or happenstance, ie, the wrong luck of the draw, you’re facing a minimum of thirteen (13) years in prison serving 85% of your prison time under the DUI Manslaughter sentencing guidelines. Remember this as you “celebrate” your holidays.
This disparity in treatment, based on the mere chance or happenstance of someone surviving or dying in the accident, ie, the strength of that other person’s immune system or bodily constitution, is just absurd if not unconscionable. The defendant’s behavior is identical.
The alcohol is flowing at the open bar parties near the capitol as the lawmakers and their staff are enjoying their holiday parties and all the cheer. They and their staffers like to pour and imbibe the alcohol they call “spirits” at every legislative office party and neighboring “happy hour,” just before pouring themselves into their cars to drive home in good holiday “spirits.” They wake up hung over, grouchy enough to ratchet up the rhetoric against the evils of DUI and tougher sentencing guidelines and mandatory jail and prison sentences for “the next guy.”
These lawmakers understand what money can buy today, which now includes “justice.” They know the truth because they write the very truth that helps them, ie, what THEY can afford, and what others cannot. The new and improved pool they built — and the one they swim in, allows for a new kind of “truth” today: “reasonable doubt for a reasonable fee,” “innocent until proven broke,” and “How much justice can you afford?”
When I was a prosecutor back in the ’80′s I enjoyed “winning” in jury trials, apparently oblivious to the fact that my obligations as a prosecutor were to seek “justice,” not convictions. “Winning” belongs to contests involving the ego which shouldn’t be part of the equation when a prosecutor should be seeking justice.
Now, as a criminal defense lawyer, the ego gets massaged in a different way — with acquittals rather than convictions; but either way, you can argue that it’s still not about justice — it’s about “winning.” I’ve represented clients who have had as many as five (5) DUI’s and like other criminal defense lawyers, I too have celebrated the fact that we kept them out of jail every time; but I’ve also seen folks suffer lengthy incarceration after only one (1) DUI, simply because they drew the wrong, overly-punishing prosecutor and judge “team.” And don’t think for a moment that certain prosecutors and judges don’t “team up” in many courtrooms in Florida and all across America, slam dunking defendants with very punishing, disproportionately severe and draconian sentences.
Depending on Divine Providence, some would argue, or just plain old “luck,” one defendant will be given the opportunity to go on “probation” and avoid jail time, while another defendant gets hammered with a jail or a prison sentence — and this tremendous disparity in treatment is inexplicable aside from the unfairness and *#it-ass luck of drawing the wrong judge or the “right” judge, depending on your perspective and depending on the sentence.
There is no “uniformity in sentencing” or “truth in sentencing,” despite the good intentions of the “Sentencing Guidelines Commission.” Be aware of all of this as you “celebrate” the holidays and play recklessly with your own life and the lives of others. Feel free to call me for any advice or counsel in this area. I am,
Looking forward to helping you and your family, I am,
Grateful for the privileged opportunity, John Contini DUI defense Attorney