On Tuesday, August 23rd, a Pasco County jury deliberated for a little over an hour before returning a not guilty verdict in a DUI case involving a Kilfin Law Firm, P.C. client who was facing ten months in jail if convicted.
She was arrested for the DUI charge in August of 2015 after a New Port Richey Police Officer observed her driving with her high beams illuminated and, purportedly, for following the vehicle in front of her too closely. According to the officer who conducted the traffic stop, several vehicles were flashing their lights at her in an apparent effort to make her aware that her high beams were on. The officer testified that upon making contact with the client, he noted several clues of impairment, including bloodshot,watery eyes, slurred speech and the odor of alcohol emanating from her person which, he says, became stronger when she spoke. Based on these observations, a DUI unit was called to conduct the ensuing investigation.
The officer who conducted the DUI investigation testified to many of the same purported signs of impairment as the officer who conducted the stop. He is a certified drug recognition evaluator (DRE) who explained to the jury that upon conducting horizontal gaze nystagmus, he noted unequal tracking of the eyes, the onset of nystagmus at 45 degrees, and nystagmus at maximum deviation. Based on his years of training and experience (he told the jury) he identified these observations as signs of alcohol impairment.
The officer next testified as to his observations of the client's performance on other field sobriety exercises, which included the walk and turn test, the one leg stand test, and the finer to nose test. The officer testified that her performance was "poor". These tests were video taped and while there were some deviations from the instructions, our position was that her performance was not, by any means, "poor".
The client was advised that if she refused to submit to a breath test, she would lose her license for a year and the refusal would be used against her as evidence at trial. Both happened. It was the state's position that the client refused because she knew she would blow above the legal limit. The client elected to testify and provided the jury with a reasonable, plausible explanation for refusing the breath test. She was told that she was going to jail that night no matter what, and that a breath test result could be used against her as well. Based on what she was told, the fact that she was arrested after performing well on the FSTs, and her concerns about the accuracy and reliability of intoxilizer machines, she elected not to blow.
St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney Donald J. Kilfin represents clients charged with DUI throughout the Tampa Bay area, including St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Bradenton, New Port Richey, and Dade City. The decision to take a case to trial is a serious one and there may be more than one avenue to a favorable resolution to your case. If you have been charged with driving under the influence in Tampa Bay, an experienced St. Petersburg DUI attorney can help. Call us any time - the initial consultation is free.