How COVID has Changed Tampa DUI Cases

The pandemic has affected the way Tampa DUI cases are handled by attorneys, judges, and clients.

How Tampa DUI attorneys and their clients have adapted to the pandemic

Since COVID precautions began in Florida, the way Tampa DUI cases progress in and out of court has changed quite a bit.  Below are a few examples of how Tampa DUI attorneys and their clients have adapted to the pandemic. 

Before the pandemic, it was customary for an individual who had recently been arrested for DUI to meet with a lawyer in person, so that the two could determine whether or not they wanted to work together on the case.   These days, because of the pandemic, the initial meeting between the person accused of DUI and the defense attorney is frequently done via telephone, Zoom, or Facetime.  At the Hardy Law Firm, the attorney/client initial meeting is done via telephone or Zoom, and attorney Hardy and his client will sign the contract via Adobe Software.  In this way, the client can sign the contract at his or her home rather than coming into the Hardy Law Firm’s office.      

There are Two Parts to a Tampa DUI Case – the Administrative Part and the Criminal Part

There are two parts to a Tampa DUI case.  The first part is called the administrative process and is handled by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.  This process deals with whether or not the DHSMV will suspend a person’s license for DUI, and if so, for how long.  The second part of a Tampa DUI deals with the criminal side of the case, which takes place in the criminal courts of Hillsborough County.  The Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office handles the criminal side of the case.

With respect to the administrative process, before the pandemic persons arrested for DUI in Hillsborough County that wanted to waive their right to a formal review hearing and apply for a business purpose only driver’s license would need to appear in person at the Hillsborough County DHSMV Bureau of Administrative reviews.  However, during the COVID emergency, the DHSMV has carried out business purpose only driver’s license application hearings by telephone. 

With respect to the criminal process, in the past the State Attorney’s Office would provide the Tampa DUI attorney with what is called the discovery, and the attorney would then review the discovery in person with his or her client.  DUI discovery includes the DUI uniform traffic citation, the criminal report affidavit, any breath, blood, or urine test results, the police or sheriff’s department reports, and any video evidence.  However, because of the pandemic, many Tampa DUI lawyers provide their clients with discovery by email or drobox, and then they review the discovery materials with the client via Zoom.

DUI School and Victim Impact Panel

When a person is arrested for DUI in Tampa, they will very frequently end up attending DUI school at DUI Counterattack of Hillsborough County.  Before the pandemic, the rule was that persons enrolled in DUI school had to attend the classes in person.  However, these days persons attending the school attend the course via online video.  The same is also true of the Hillsborough County Victim Impact Panel

Tampa judges allow persons accused of DUI and reckless driving to plead guilty via a plea in absentia.
Tampa judges allow persons accused of DUI and reckless driving to plead guilty via a plea in absentia.

Pleading in Absentia in Tampa DUI or Reckless Driving Cases

Another big change that is a result of the pandemic is that Tampa judges have been holding most court hearings via Zoom rather than in person.  Also, it has become very common in Tampa DUI cases for defendants to plead guilty to DUI or reckless driving without ever going to court.  This is called pleading in absentia.  When a person pleads guilty in absentia, they do not attend court to change their plea.  Rather, they review all the plea related documents with their attorney several weeks before the court hearing.  They then sign the plea related documents in front of a notary public, and then their attorney submits these documents to the judge in advance of court.  Many DUI clients prefer pleading in absentia because they don’t have to appear in court. 

Posted in Florida DUI Defense