I've been a lawyer since 1980. My first law job was as an Assistant City Prosecutor in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, where I prosecuted DUI offenses, among other things, for almost two years. Following that, I worked as a felony prosecutor in the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's office, which includes the city of Cleveland. I handled all kinds of felony prosecutions including rapes, robberies, murders, burglaries, felonious assaults, drug cases, and public corruption cases. I did that for about six years before I went into private practice. When I went into private practice in Cleveland, I practiced criminal defense and did some personal injury work. I've continued to do criminal defense and personal injury work throughout the rest of my career.
In 1996, I moved to Florida. We now have offices in Sarasota and Key West. We continue to do personal injury work. In 2002, I decided to limit my criminal practice to DUI defense. When I made that decision, I decided to take all the classes that the police officers took. I took all of the police classes in field sobriety testing and DUI investigation. I became an instructor in DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. I went to class with a roomful of police officers and became certified as a breath test operator in Florida. In 2003, I joined the National College for DUI Defense and started attending their summer session at Harvard Law School every summer. I joined the Faculty of the National College for DUI Defense Summer Session in 2014. I became board certified in DUI Defense through the National College for DUI Defense in 2008. I've probably tried somewhere between 300 and 400 jury trials.
What Does It Mean To Be A Board Certified DUI Expert? What Does That Lend To Your Cases?
I've been board certified since 2008 by the National College for DUI Defense. The NCDD is the only organization accredited by the American Bar Association to provide a board certification in the specialty field of DUI defense. ABA accreditation is currently recognized in 25 states. In order to become board certified, a lawyer has to study for about a year and then submit to a two day test that covers the law of DUI, general criminal law, and the toxicology of alcohol and drugs of abuse. You have to learn about the effect on the body of various drugs of abuse.
The lawyer also has to learn about blood testing and what types of vials they need for which types of tests, and how they properly have to prepare the vials to be used as evidentiary samples in a criminal case. There's a lot of complex and very specific information that must be mastered. It is tested in a written test. Then, there is an oral exam on the second day that covers a lot of the same information, but it's in the form of an appellate argument.
In 2015, I also passed a Florida-specific written examination, which had been prepared by the Florida Bar to test specific knowledge of Florida's DUI laws and testing regulations, as well as driver's license regulations. Only three lawyers have successfully passed that test.
How Is DUI Defined Under Florida State Law?
Under the Florida Statutes, you are guilty of driving under the influence if you are either driving with a blood or breath alcohol in excess of 0.08 or if you are under the influence of alcohol to the extent that your normal faculties are impaired. That means there are two ways to prove a DUI. One is to simply show a number on a breath test machine or on a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer. If police don't have a breath test or a blood test, they can use lay testimony of whether a person appeared to be impaired, including what they said, what they admitted to, how they spoke, how they walked and stood, whether they were slurring their words, and how they performed on field sobriety tests. Note that the field sobriety tests, however, are notoriously poor at predicting impairment. Very few lawyers are sufficiently familiar with the field sobriety tests to understand the weakness of the tests for their proposed purpose.
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