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New Alcohol Bill Passed in Pinellas County

While drunk driving remains a major problem in Orlando and throughout central Florida, that has not slowed the demand for liquor. Responding to public demand, the Pinellas County Commission approved legislation back in March that permits bars, restaurants, and stores to begin selling hard liquor on Sundays starting at 8 a.m. Under previous rules, 8 a.m. sales were the rule for every day except Sunday, when liquor could not be sold before 11 a.m. Will an 8 a.m. Start Be a Boon For Area Businesses? The later start for Sunday liquor sales was a remnant of the “blue laws,” which date back to colonial times. Many states and localities adopted special Sunday morning restrictions on alcohol sales, ostensibly to promote the idea that people should be attending church rather than drinking. In many states, blue laws also restricted other types of businesses from operating on Sunday. In an editorial supporting the new Pinellas County law, the Tampa Bay Tribune said the 11 a.m. start time for Sunday drinking was an “unneeded, outdated relic.” The editorial noted that while it makes sense to require liquor sales end at 3 a.m.–that remains unchanged from the previous county ordinance–there was no comparable “public safety argument” for “making football fans, boaters or the brunch crowd hold off until 11 on Sundays.” Also keep in mind that this is a county-level ordinance, and individual cities within Pinellas may still opt to keep or add their own restrictions on when local businesses may sell alcohol. But so far, there is little evidence to suggest that cities do not welcome the county’s move. The Times cited St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman as a key figure in “lobbying for the change” as a way to boost local tourism. And the City of Dunedin’s Commission has already given its unanimous approval to the 8 a.m. start time. City officials said the earlier hours will “give boaters and others more flexibility of when they buy.” Could Early Sunday Sales Increase DWI? Some people are always concerned that expending the time when alcohol is legally available for sale may exacerbate Florida’s existing DWI problems. But according to the Times, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office raised no objections to the county’s ordinance. And at least one study published by the National Institutes of Health suggested there is “no relationship between repeal of Sunday sales bans and fatal vehicle accidents.” But that particular study only addressed bans on the sale of packaged liquor in stores, where people are more likely to drink at home. Given that Pinellas County is also permitting bars and restaurants to begin serving liquor at 8 a.m., it is quite possible we will see more early-morning DWI arrests, especially on a Sunday where roads are generally less congested. Of course, it goes without saying that you should always enjoy alcohol responsibly, whether on Sunday morning or any other day of the week. And if you are stopped and charged with DWI, you should remain calm and contact a qualified Orlando criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, at 407-377-0150, to schedule a consultation with an experienced Florida DWI defense attorney today.

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Consequences of Being Cited for a DUI While Boating

Drunk driving and DUI charges are most often associated with cars or other land-based vehicles. But under Florida and federal law, you can also face serious consequences if you are caught boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In fact, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, a person operating a boat “is likely to become impaired more quickly” than a motorist, and alcohol is a factor “in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities.” The Law in Florida Boating under the influence (BUI) is categorized as a separate offense from DUI. Under Section 327.35 of the Florida Statutes, a person commits BUI when they operate a “vessel” within the state while “under the influence of alcoholic beverages” or any other controlled substance. Similar to DUI, prosecutors can prove a boater was under the influence if his or her blood- or breath-alcohol level was measured at 0.08 percent or higher. Even if a person is below this limit, they may still be guilty of BUI if other evidence proves their “normal faculties [were] impaired” due to the use of drugs or alcohol. A first-time BUI conviction will result in a fine of between $500 and $1,000, as well as up to 6 months in jail. Following a second conviction, the penalties increase to a fine of between $1,000 and $2,000 and up to 9 months in jail. A third conviction will lead to a fine of between $2,000 and $5,000 and up to 12 months in jail. However, if the third BUI conviction occurs within 10 years of a prior conviction, it is treated as a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment. The above penalties assume that there were no injuries to persons or property as a result of the BUI. If there is such damage then the penalties are significantly harsher. For example, a BUI that causes “serious bodily injury” to another person is automatically charged as a third-degree felony, even if it is the defendant’s first offense. And if BUI results in death, it may be considered “BUI manslaughter,” a first-degree felony. There are further penalty “enhancements” in the BUI law for boaters who had an exceptionally high blood-alcohol level of were traveling with minors. Will a BUI Conviction Affect My Driver’s License? If you are convicted of a DUI, any prior BUI offenses will count against you in assessing penalties. In other words, if you are convicted of BUI and later receive a DUI, the court will treat the DUI as a second offense. Among other things, this can lengthen the maximum term of your driver’s license suspension from 1 year to 5 years. Along the same lines, a prior DUI will count as a prior offense in any subsequent BUI case. This is why you need to take any DUI or BUI charge seriously, as a conviction will have long-term consequences for your rights and civil liberties. If you need assistance from an experienced Orlando criminal defense lawyer in dealing with a boating under the influence case, contact the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, today at 407-377-0150.  

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The End of Florida’s “Liquor Wall”?

 Florida residents may soon have more options when it comes to purchasing liquor. On April 26 the House of Representatives approved a bill that would end most of Florida’s restrictions on selling alcohol with other merchandise by 2021. Proponents argue lifting this “liquor wall” will benefit consumers and free markets, while critics say it will hurt local businesses and lead to increased problems with underage drinking and DUI. Legislature Votes to End Restrictions by 2021 Currently, Florida law prohibits vendors that sell alcoholic beverages from offering any unrelated merchandise for sale in the same space. Alcohol must either be sold in standalone liquor stores or in a separate retail space, i.e. a side store separated by a wall. But you cannot, for instance, legally sell hard liquor on the same shelves as regular groceries. Last December bills were introduced in both houses of the Florida legislature to gradually end this requirement. The Florida Senate passed its bill, SB 106, on March 23 by a vote of 21-17. The margin was even just a single vote in the House, which agreed to SB 106 on a 58-57 vote. Dubbed the “Whiskey and Wheaties” bill by some, the legislation would open the door for selling hard liquor alongside beer and wine in many grocery and “big box” stores. SB 106 would actually phase in the easing of restrictions starting on July 1, 2018, with a complete repeal taking effect on June 30, 2021. Retailers Spar Over Potential Effects of Ending the Wall Perhaps not surprisingly, the legislation has drawn battle lines between smaller, family-owned liquor stores and larger retailers. Florida Businesses Unite, which promotes the slogan “Keep the Wall,” argued SB 106 is “merely an attempt by out-of-state companies to change the rules midgame in an effort to seek an unfair advantage.” The group further claimed that large anchor stores in shopping centers will use their newfound ability to sell liquor as a pretext for driving smaller competitors out of the market. On the opposite side, Floridians for Fair Business Practices said SB 106 will make it more “convenient” to buy liquor and that 30 states already “allow distilled liquor to be sold alongside other adult beverages.” The group also pointed to research suggesting that expanding the retail availability of liquor will not curb underage drinking. Are You Facing DUI or Underage Drinking Charges in the Orlando Area? Regardless of whether SB 106 becomes law, the rules governing DUI and underage drinking will not change. It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase or consume alcohol in the State of Florida. And any adult with a blood-alcohol concentration of at least 0.08 percent (0.02 percent if you are under 21) is considered criminal drunk driving. You may also face stiffer criminal penalties if a police officer finds an open container of liquor in your vehicle at the time of a DUI arrest, even if you are over 21 and purchased the alcohol legally. If you are facing a DUI charge and need help from an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney, contact the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, today at 407-377-0150.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Drug Charges

THC DUI Blood Test Bill Proposed in Florida

Florida legislators continue to struggle with last year’s decision by voters to legalize medicinal cannabis through an amendment to the state constitution. Some legislators, concerned that medical marijuana might lead to a rash of people “driving while stoned,” have proposed new laws to expand existing DUI laws to cover THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. However, medical and law enforcement experts caution that alcohol and marijuana are not interchangeable, and methods used to detect the former will not work the latter. Are Blood Tests Effective for Marijuana? On January 12, state Rep. David Silvers of West Palm Beach filed House Bill 237, a measure that would expand Florida’s existing DIU laws to cover driving under the influence of THC. Specifically, HB 237 proposes that a person is illegally “driving under the influence” if he or she has a “blood level of 5 nanograms or more” of THC per “milliliter of blood.” This would apply to both operating a motor vehicle or a boat. Thousands of bills are introduced every year in the Florida legislature. Most are never passed and die while pending before a committee or subcommittee. Silvers’ HB 237 was referred to a House subcommittee on January 23 and has not been acted upon since. One reason for the lack of action may be the questionable science behind using blood tests to determine whether a marijuana user is incapable of safely operating a car or boat. Law enforcement has decades of proven experience using blood and breath tests for alcohol impairment. But THC is a much different creature than alcohol. According to a 2016 report from NPR, while “[m]easuring the volume of alcohol in one part of your body can predictably tell you how much is in any other part of your body,” the same is not true of THC. Marijuana intoxication does not work as uniformly. For one thing, THC is soluble in fat, which means it can accumulate in fatty tissues–such as the brain–even after it has left the person’s bloodstream. And if THC is consumed without smoking it–e.g., eating a “pot brownie”–there will be no trace of it whatsoever in the blood. As one researcher told NPR, state legislators want to come up with “one number” to define marijuana intoxication–as HB 237 does with “5 nanograms”–but the science simply does not support such a standard. The researcher noted that while “[o]ccasional users can be very impaired at one microgram per liter,” chronic users, including possibly individuals taking prescribed medical cannabis, “will be over one microgram per liter maybe for weeks.” Have You Been Charged With an Orlando DUI? Given the state of the science, HB 237 is unlikely to become law in is present form. Even its sponsor told the Miami New Times that he “had not reviewed studies” on the issue and was open to amending the bill. Remember, even without this legislation, DUI based on alcohol remains a serious criminal offense. If you have been arrested and charged with DUI, it is imperative you speak with a qualified Orlando criminal defense attorney right away. Contact the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, today at 407-377-0150 to speak with a lawyer right away.

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Florida’s DUI Ignition Interlock Bill Advances

Under certain circumstances, Florida residents convicted of DUI may be required to install special “ignition interlock” devices in their cars in order to regain their driving privileges. Interlock devices contain a breath analyzer that determines if the driver’s blood-alcohol content is below the Florida legal limit of .08 percent. If the driver is above the limit, the vehicle will not start. First-Time DUI Charge Could be Dismissed Under New Legislation Under current Florida law, an ignition interlock device is mandatory for 1 year following a driver’s second DUI conviction, and for 6 months after a first DUI conviction if there was a minor in the car or the driver’s blood-alcohol content was at least 0.15 percent. For all other first-time DUI convictions, an interlock device may be ordered at the discretion of the sentencing judge. But some Florida legislators want to encourage first-time DUI offenders to use ignition interlock devices. Similar bills have been introduced in the state House and Senate on this subject: House Bill 949 and Senate Bill 918. HB 949, introduced by Rep. Cord Byrd of Neptune Beach, states that a person convicted of a first DUI, with no prior criminal record, could elect to install an ignition interlock device for six months. A judge could also still order an interlock as a condition of probation. In either case, the court would “withhold adjudication” of the defendant’s guilt during the six-month period. In other words, a person who successfully uses the interlock device for six months will effectively have the DUI erased from their record. According to Byrd, this means the driver “would be able to not report [the DUI charge] on an employment application, however law enforcement would still have access to the information.” The second bill, SB 918, would effectively do the same thing as HB 949. It was introduced in the Senate by Orlando-area Sen. David Simmons. On March 21, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee gave preliminary approval to HB 949. The bill must still be approved by the full House Government Accountability Committee, as well as the House Judiciary Committee, before proceeding to a final floor vote. Similarly, SB 918 is working its way through a number of committee approvals before receiving a final vote in that chamber. If both houses agree to identical forms of the bill, it will be sent to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature. Both bills propose an effective date of October 1, 2017. Have You Been Charged With a DUI in the Orlando Area? HB949 and SB918 could have a significant impact on thousands of Florida residents. According to an analysis of HB949 prepared by the House of Representatives staff, there were 12,627 first-time DUI convictions in Florida in 2016. Currently there are more than 9,000 DUI offenders required to use ignition interlock devices. That number could therefore more than double under the new legislation. If you have been charged with DUI, it is important to work with an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney who understands the law and keep you informed of potential changes that affect your rights. If you need help, call the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, today at 407-377-0150.

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Impaired Driving: Prescription Drug Use Can Lead to DUI Accusation

We often think of DUIs as a charge related to drunk driving and forget that DUI charges are about driving while impaired. This means that you can be arrested for driving while using drugs prescribed to you by your doctor. Florida DUI laws focus on driving while under the influence of any unnatural substance. This includes prescription drugs. There are no special prescription drug exceptions. If you take prescription drugs regularly you should understand how Florida views drugged driving and the possible consequences of a DUI conviction. What is Drugged Driving? Florida law defines DUI as driving or controlling a vehicle while impaired beyond your normal faculties. Your normal faculties include sight, hearing, walking, speaking, determining distances, driving your car, responding to emergencies, and performing routine mental/physical acts. In order to ensure a DUI conviction, a prosecutor must demonstrate that the accused faculties were impaired or prove the accused had a blood alcohol level, or BAC, of .08 or higher. Drugged Driving Charges are Complex Drugged cases are complex and can prove difficult for prosecutors. This is because it can be difficult to prove a defendant’s intoxication levels at the time of arrest. There is no breathalyzer test that an arresting officer can administer on site. Furthermore, there may be no smell or other clues that a person is using prescription drugs. Finally, there is no set standard similar to the .08 BAC for measuring the levels of prescription drugs in the human body. What may be just enough for one person maybe too much for another. What Types of Prescription Drugs Can Cause a DUI Charge? There are many drugs which when used as prescribed or abused may lead to a DUI charge and conviction. There are many drugs which may cause drowsiness, impaired motor function, or clearly warn the user to avoid driving. Improper use of these drugs may result in a DUI accusation. Common prescription drugs which may cause impairment include: Valium, Oxycodone, Vicodin, Prescription sleeping pills and Some drugstore medications. What are the Penalties for Drugged Driving? Judges have a number of penalties available for those convicted of drugged driving. The exact penalty will depend on the circumstances of the crime, however, penalties include: A fine of up to $1000; 50 hours of community service; Up to one year of probation; Six months in jail; License suspended for at least 180 days DUI Driver Education and counseling Victim awareness class Impoundment of vehicle. Seek Help From an Attorney Florida DUI law does not make an exception for driving while using drugs. Since it is more difficult to determine whether a driver was under the influence of drugs or other medication. If you are facing drugged driving charges you need to contact the DUI defense attorneys at Moses & Rooth, we can review the facts of your case and provide you with the best defense possible. Call us today at 407-377-0150 to schedule an appointment.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Drunk Driving

Have You Been Charged with a DUI?

We all enjoy those moments that make us happiest. We tend to enjoy not only the moment, but the people we around at the time. Our happiest moments are often times celebrated with alcohol, from grabbing a beer with a friend, to wine, liquor, and champagne. Though celebratory times call for celebratory measures, it is important not to drive while you are under the influence of alcohol, chemical substances, or controlled substances. When you drink and drive you increase the risk of hurting or killing yourself, as well as hurting and killing others. According to Mothers against Drunk Driving , 28.1% of all traffic related deaths were due to drunk driving in the recent year, with 40,677 DUI arrests and 26,291 DUI convictions. Because of these numbers, Florida is becoming stricter on those who are charged and convicted of drunk driving. If you or a loved one have been charged with a DUI, it is beyond beneficial to contact an experienced Florida DUI attorney to help you with your case. What Happens if I am Charged with a DUI? When you are stopped by a police officer and asked to take a blood, urine or breath test it is in your best interest to comply. According to Florida’s implied consent law, any person who accepts the responsibility of operating a motor vehicle is deemed to have given his or her consent to submit a chemical test or physical test if an officer has reasonable cause to believe that he or she is driving while impaired. Though you can refuse, you should not. Refusal results in the suspension of your driving privileges for a year for a first refusal or 18 months if you previously had your license suspended for refusing a previous chemical or physical test. If you are charged with a DUI, seek legal representation immediately. Depending on whether the DUI is your first, second, or subsequent offense will determine what consequences await you. Consequences can consist of imprisonment up to one year, fines up to $5,000, license suspension up to ten years, and the use of an interlock ignition device in your vehicle. Because of these penalties, seek legal advice if you have been charged with a DUI. Need Legal Advice? Being arrested and charged with a DUI is not a good experience and it does not look good on your driving record or criminal record. However, in some cases, you may have possible defenses that may be able to save you from this stigma. When you are figuring out your next steps, it is important to consider an attorney. If you or a loved one have been charged with a DUI, contact Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law at (407) 377-0150 for an initial consultation. We can work together to figure out the best possible strategies for your case.  

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Underage Drinking: Understanding Florida’s MIP Laws

While it may seem fun, underage drinking is never a good idea. This is particularly true when you consider that the Florida laws that deal with underage drinking have become increasingly stringent over the years. Punishment for underage drinking can impact more people than just the intoxicated teen. There can be legal consequences for any minor who transports or  possesses alcohol. There are also legal consequences for anyone who provides alcohol to minors. Simply selling or serving alcohol to minors may result in serious legal consequences. If your teen has been charged with underaged drinking or if you have been accused or providing alcohol to minors, this article will help you understand Florida’s underage drinking laws. Defining Minor in Possession of Alcohol Florida’s Minor in Possession of Alcohol laws establish 21 as the legal drinking age and it illegal for minors to drink, transport or sell alcohol. Anyone under 21-years-old found in possession of alcohol, including liquor, wine, beer and mixed drinks, could face criminal minor in possession of alcohol charges. Teenagers do not have to be caught holding an alcoholic drink to be charged with this offense. A minor can be accused of minor in possession if the beverage is within their reach or under their control. The Consequences of Underage Drinking Under Florida law, the possession of alcoholic beverages by minors is a generally a second-degree misdemeanor. Teens convicted of this crime may face serious penalties which include: First Offense: a second degree misdemeanor, $500 fine and serve up to 60 days in jail.   Second Offense: a first degree misdemeanor, $1,000 fine and serve up to one year in jail. Additionally, the court may direct the Department of Motor Vehicles to deny, revoke or suspend a teen’s driver’s license and driving privileges. Similar to charges related to underage drinking, the length of time a minor’s driving license is suspended increases if a minor is a repeat offender: First Offense: license suspended for six months to one year. Following Offenses: license suspended for up to two years.   MIP Laws Make it Illegal to Provide Minors with Alcohol It is also illegal for any adult to provide alcohol to minors. Anyone who sells or supplies alcohol to minors will be held legally responsible for any injury or harm caused by the minor. This law means that adults who allow teens to drink at their home, bar, or restaurant may face stiff legal repercussions for giving teens alcohol. You may face second degree misdemeanor charges and penalties which include fines up to $500 or up to 60 days in jail. Seek Help From an Attorney If you have been charged as a minor in possession of alcohol or any crime related to underage drinking, you should contact Moses & Rooth. We understand the complexity of Florida’s MIP laws and can help guide you and your teen through the process. Please contact us today at 407-377-0150 to schedule an appointment.

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Charges Filed in Explosive Uber Accident

Prosecutors allege that a college student was speeding and drunk by twice the legal limit when he collided with an Uber driver, killing a passenger in Southwest Miami Dade. The accident captured the city’s attention after the victim’s family filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant and Uber. Last month, the victim and friends called an Uber after a night out. The driver picked up the passengers in a black GMC Yukon. Just before 5 a.m., the driver was turning left at a flashing yellow light when the defendant’s car sped straight through the intersection. The defendant’s car hit the SUV. The SUV flipped, struck a concrete wall, and bursts into flames. The state alleges that the defendant was going 70 mph in a 35 mph zone and that his blood level was at .155, well above the legal limit of .08, two hours after the accident. Responsibility for the crash will be hashed out in court as prosecutors insist the driver had the right of way. The defendant faces DUI manslaughter charges and was released after paying a $30,000 bond. The details of this accident have captured our attention. Most likely because you count on a safe trip when hiring a vehicle like the Uber service.  DUI manslaughter charges are a serious crime under Florida law. This means that when a person driving under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substance causes an accident and someone dies, he or she may face a DUI Manslaughter charge. DUI Manslaughter is a felony offense, punishable with a mandatory minimum four-year prison sentence. While the four-year sentence is minimum and mandatory, the average sentence varies across Florida. Statewide, the average prison sentence is just below ten years and Miami-Dade has an average sentence of just over six years. Other Crash Related Charges While the trial in the example above is still pending, it is always possible that a driver who causes an accident that results in death might face other crash related charges. These charges are serious and carry heavy penalties: Vehicular Homicide: Vehicular homicide is a second-degree felony. The punishment includes up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000,00 fine. If a driver leaves the scene (think about your typical hit and run) then prosecutors may enhance the charge to a first-degree felony punishable by 30 years in prison. Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Death:  This is a first degree felony which is punishable by 30 years in prison.  It also has a mandatory minimum of 4 years in prison. Learn more about leaving the scene of an accident. Let an Attorney Help Not every fatality that occurs on the roadway should result in a DUI manslaughter charge. However, the right attorney will understand the nuances of charges that result from car accidents and can advocate for the best results possible. If you are facing DUI manslaughter charges, let Moses & Rooth help you. We can go over the facts of your case and ensure you have the best defense possible. Contact us today at 407-377-0150, to schedule an appointment.

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| Read Time: < 1 minute | Criminal Defense

Supreme Court Taking Shot at DUI Law

The Supreme Court is taking another “shot” at the DUI laws and the drunk-driving test.  They will be examining three separate cases that will be argued together at a one hour hearing.  The issues presented in this case are defendants declining to take the tests.  In this case they are a blood test, a breath test, and finally a person who refused sobriety tests and then was taken to a hospital against his wishes. In Florida, if you have previously had your license suspended for refusing to submit to a breath, blood or urine test and subsequently refuse a breath, blood, or urine test you may be convicted of a separate crime.  It appears that the United State Supreme Court is going to examine the constitutionality of this crime and the refusal in general. This examination of the refusal law is something of a follow up to a previous ruling in Missouri v. McNeely that “the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant.”   This could have a very serious impact on Florida’s refusal law and how it is treated by a substantive driving under the influence charge as well as a substantive refusal charge. Image credit m01229 at Flickr

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