Appellate Argument: Warrantless Speech

STATE OF FLORIDA vs. WILLIAMS WILLIAMS
June 2015

Case Synopsis

On October 4, 2013, our client William Williams was issued five uniform traffic citations (UTC) including citations for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and for "Refusal to Submit To a Chemical Test." Refusing to submit to a chemical test after previously refusing to submit to such a test is a criminal offense and allows the State to get a "second bite" at the apple when a smart defendant does not cooperate. Here, Mr. Williams, not trusting the breath test machine and acting on the advice of his attorneys, refused to give a breath test when he was pulled over on his way to Wal-Mart. Because of a mail "glitch" with the DMV, Mr. Williams was unaware that his license was suspended at the time he was pulled over. Still, he found himself facing a criminal charge for Driving While License Suspended along with other criminal charges. We immediately determined we held a strong defense to the DUI and Driving While License Suspended (the DMV messed up email which happens all the time). However, we still have to fight the refusal charge. Our firm had been working on a constitutional challenge to the refusal statute: (you can read the Motion for yourself here).

On August 26, 2014 we took the case before a Jury and ultimately six wise citizens found Mr. Williams not guilty of Count I DWLS and Count II DUI. On September 17, 2014, the County Court considered the severed count of Refusal to Submit. At the hearing on our Motion to Dismiss as Unconstitutional, the State and our Firm stipulated there was sufficient probable cause to ask Mr. Williams to submit to a breath test, that the stop was lawful, that Mr. Williams refused to take a breath test, and that Mr. Williams driving record had an entry indicating a prior refusal to submit to a breath test. The State did not present any evidence that exigent circumstances created an exception to the warrant requirement. The County Court issued an Order denying Mr. Williams' Motion to Dismiss ( which you can read here) but recognized how important this novel legal issue was. The County Court accepted Mr. Williams' plea of no contest with reservation of the right to appeal the denial of the Motion to Dismiss and adjudicated him guilty on the charge of refusing to submit and sentenced him to court costs, fines, and time served.

Although our contract did not cover any appeals, the Firm believed this was an issue of great public importance and knew that we had a chance to make a real difference in an emerging area of law. So, at no charge to Mr. Williams, we prepared and filed an appeal to the Fifth District Court of Appeals. You can watch the video of Mr. Eric Latinsky arguing on behalf of our client before the Court here. Ultimately, the Court issued its opinion (which you can read here) which we believe significantly changes Florida DUI law. We are preparing to appeal this issue to the Florida Supreme Court.

Mr. William's case is one of "first impression" meaning we are dealing with aspects of DUI law which have never been heard in Florida before. We are on the cutting edge of this issue and are working to influence new law which we believe will help everyone accused of driving under the influence. Many times, lawyers accept a challenge because it is the right thing to do. This is one of those times.

If you or a loved one has been accused of driving under the influence, please do not hesitate to contact us for assistance.