Was Adoption a Ruse to Protect DUI Defendant’s Fortune?

Few ordinary citizens who have been charged with DUI would have the options available like a billionaire. The case of John Goodman, a man whose fortune derives from his family’s Texas air conditioning business and is worth millions of dollars, is certainly unusual. He has a DUI charge to be decided by the court as well as a civil action against him by the surviving family members of a man who was killed when Goodman crashed into his car in Wellington, Florida over three years ago.

The accident was alleged to have happened as a result of Goodman being DUI at the time and he was formally charged with DUI manslaughter as well as a number of other charges. The charge could mean a jail sentence of anything up to 30 years if he is convicted. However, the billionaire seems to be more worried about losing part of his vast fortune if the wrongful death lawsuit against him is successful.

The accident happened when Goodman was driving his $200,000 Bentley in February 2010. The Bentley veered across the road and struck the car belonging to Scott Patrick Wilson. Mr. Wilson died as a result of drowning after his Hyundai sedan ended up in a canal. It is his parents who are pursuing the current wrongful death suit against Mr. Goodman.

Goodman could stand to lose much of his personal assets if the lawsuit is successful. He has been accused by Wilson’s parents of resorting to an unusual tactic. He has “adopted” his own girlfriend, who is only 6 years his junior. According to his lawyer, the adoption is all about securing Goodman’s estate and allotting assets more evenly amongst the children belonging to him and his girlfriend. However, the dead man’s parents feel that the adoption could rob them of a significant part of the wrongful death compensation payment as the adopted girlfriend would be handed at least a third of Goodman’s assets.

They have appealed to the judge involved in the case to consider the portion of Goodman’s assets which will be awarded in trust to the girlfriend to be part of the total which could be available to pay the compensation settlement.

Whatever the outcome of the case, the results could still be very serious for Mr. Goodman. Losing the court case against the DUI charge would mean that he could spend a considerable time in jail as well as pay a large fine and he is unlikely to see his license returned any time soon.

If you have been arrested for DUI in Tampa and you are not a billionaire, then you will certainly still need an experienced Tampa DUI lawyer to help you defend you against the DUI charge. The charges against Goodman in this case were particularly serious because his actions are alleged to have led to a fatality. However, even a DUI charge in which nobody has been injured can lead to severe penalties.

Not every DUI arrest is clear cut. There are often situations in which a person is arrested for DUI, even if they were not over the legal limit when they were actually driving. In fact, it is quite possible for a person to be arrested for DUI even if they have never been drinking. This is because the tests used to determine DUI can be seriously flawed or appear to show a person was over the 0.08% limit because of contaminated equipment, or because a poorly trained officer used the equipment. There are even DUI charges laid against some people based purely on the subjective observations of officers who have stopped a DUI suspect on the roadside.

DUI arrests do not always lead to a conviction. The prosecution is legally bound to prove that someone was actually over the legal limit at the time they were driving. By using an experienced DUI attorney, you stand a chance to fight the DUI charge against you and you may be able to get the charge dismissed altogether or have the penalties imposed reduced if you are finally convicted.

Sick Cat Emergency No Defense in Tampa DUI Case

It has taken three years for a decision, but a three judge panel at a 2nd District Court of Appeal has now decided that the defense put forward by a driver stopped for speeding was insufficient to prevent him from being charged for DUI.

The case has attracted international media attention because of the unusual situation in which Christopher Brooks was arrested. He was apparently stopped for driving at 83 mph by police officers in the city of Tampa and was subsequently arrested for DUI. He claimed that he was taking a friend’s sick cat to a nearby vet’s clinic. He also said that he acknowledged that he had been drinking, and was going too fast, but thought that he was legally within his rights to do so.

Florida law allows a certain amount of leeway when it comes to breaking normal traffic laws when driving if the objective of the driver is to take a sick or injured person for treatment under emergency conditions.

The question in this case was whether taking a sick feline to the vet could be considered a ‘defense of necessity’ as the relevant clause is referred to.

There appeared to be no doubt that Mr. Brook’s story was genuine. The cat was definitely sick and in fact died during the enforced wait at the roadside. Mr. Brooks was also accompanied by two human passengers, one of whom was the owner of the cat. The owner pleaded with police to allow them to proceed to the vet, who was apparently very close to where the car was pulled over.

One of the reasons the case has taken so long to come to a final decision is that it has been appealed under the ‘defense of necessity’ clause. However, it appears that the final judgment from the panel ruled that the clause could only apply to humans and not to cats or any other domestic pets. Mr. Brooks was not only allegedly DUI at the time he was driving, but it was the third time he had been arrested for DUI in 10 years. Sentencing had not been decided by the time this blog had been written.

DUI is taken very seriously indeed in Florida and a third offense can mean harsh penalties for anyone who is convicted. The penalties are even greater if the three offenses have been committed within ten years and can be considered a felony, rather than just a misdemeanor. The penalties for Mr. Brooks could include a mandatory jail term of up to 5 years, a large fine, 5 years probation and permanent forfeiture of his license.

Every DUI arrest has unique considerations, although it is unlikely that anyone else in Tampa will now contemplate driving a pet to a vet after a drink and at speed. If you have been arrested for DUI, you should not think that you are automatically guilty. You should make sure you get an aggressive and experienced Tampa DUI lawyer to help you defend your constitutional rights.

A good DUI lawyer will be able to examine every detail of your arrest carefully and look for errors and contradictions in the way the arrest or the alcohol testing was carried out. There are many ways in which a defense may be successful. Police officers must be able to justify the reason why they stopped you in the first place. They must also be able to provide convincing evidence of correct protocol in the field sobriety tests and questioning techniques they used at the road side. The chemical test for alcohol, if one was used, must be proven to have been carried out under exacting conditions.

Keeping Records of your DUI Arrest

If you have been charged with DUI in Tampa, then you may think that there is little that can be done about it and you should plead guilty to make the whole process easier and quicker. This is not a good decision to make for at least two reasons. Firstly, you may not fully realize the long term seriousness of the consequences if you are convicted. Secondly, there are often many inconsistencies in the way you will have been arrested and charged and a good DUI attorney can often use these to help dismiss your charge or get it reduced to a less serious charge. If you can keep your wits about you while you are under arrest you may quietly be able to keep as a meticulous record as you can as the notes you take can be helpful in preparing your defense.

What Should You Record?

There are certain critical things that you should record. If you are stopped at the roadside, then you should remember if and when you last drank any alcohol, and what exactly you drank. You should also take a note of the weather conditions and road conditions at the time you were stopped as well as the visibility. Record any other aspects of the period immediately leading up to the time you were stopped. You can only be stopped if an officer thinks there was “reasonable grounds” for doing so. In other words that you may have been doing something illegally. It maybe that your account of the way in which you drove differs significantly from the description of the officer.

You should also record any details of the sobriety tests and what the police officer said to you. Make a note if you had any health issues that could have affected your sobriety tests and whether you pointed these out to the officer at the time. Make a note whether you had any medications or mouthwash or anything else before you were stopped that could have affected the odor in your mouth.

If the officer arrests you, you will be taken to a police station and asked to take a chemical test for blood alcohol. It is in your interests to cooperate with this as a refusal could lead to a separate charge under Florida’s implied consent rule. You should take down any details of the test that you can recall at the time. For instance, did the police officer wait and watch you for fifteen minutes before you took a breath test. How many times was the test taken and how long between the tests? Also, make a note of how long it was before you took the test after you were stopped.

How Records of Your Arrest Can Help Your Defense

An experienced DUI lawyer is able to examine every step of a DUI arrest to look for inconsistencies and incorrect procedure. He or she will want to compare the records you have made with the account made by the officer who arrested you. The lawyer will also want to see the video made by the dash cam in the police car and compare that with the account given by the arresting officer. The blood alcohol tests, whether these are blood, breath or urine tests, are notoriously unreliable. There is a correct procedure for each test and the lawyer will critically examine the records kept by the operator as well as your own records of the way in which the test was administered. A test which is likely to give unreliable results because of a faulty device, poorly trained or untrained operator can be invalid in court.

Your records may not stop you from being convicted for DUI, but they will certainly help in your defense and will give you a chance to think positively about fighting your DUI charge.

What to Do if you Are Wrongly Arrested for DUI

DUI is a serious charge in Florida and a conviction is a criminal charge that can affect you and your family for the rest of your life. There are times when you can be wrongly arrested for DUI as well as suffer from misconduct of one sort or another at the hands of arresting officers. If this can be proved you can sue a police officer for false arrest or false misconduct if you have a Tampa DUI lawyer to help you do it.

How False Arrest Can be Made in Florida

When you are stopped by a police officer, the officer must have “reasonable grounds” to arrest you. This means that there must be something about the way you have been driving or some other reason which makes the officer think that you could be driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If the officer stops you without reasonable grounds then this in itself constitutes misconduct. However, it is in your interests to cooperate politely and quietly with a police officer as being aggressive or uncooperative are reasons to be arrested in themselves.

After being stopped and questioned, you will be asked to carry out sobriety tests and maybe blow into a portable breathalyzer. Again it is in your interests to cooperate with these as well as you can as you will otherwise give grounds for an arrest. If you fail either your sobriety test or the portable breathalyzer test, then the police officer will take you to a police station for a chemical test. If you do not fail your sobriety test in your opinion and show no evidence of alcohol on the breath test but the officer still takes you down to the police station then this could also be used as evidence for false arrest.

Police Misconduct While Under Arrest

There are sometimes situations in which police officers act in a manner which is itself unlawful. This happens more easily when a person is already in custody for DUI. Malicious prosecution is one action which can be pursued against a police officer who has charged you even though there was no “probable cause” in the first place to arrest you. If you are not convicted and there was evidence to show that the officer acted maliciously towards you, then this could be sufficient to use against him or her.

Excessive Force

All Florida police officers have the right to use “reasonable force” against you if you resist arrest. However, there is a point at which reasonable force becomes unreasonable force. Like a lot of police misconduct, this might be difficult to prove, but may be worth pursuing in some circumstances. In order to recover any form of compensation for this and other forms of police misconduct there must be clear evidence that the misconduct has been used against you.

Whatever the circumstances, whether you think that you were falsely arrested or there was some evidence of police misconduct while you were arrested or you have been charged with DUI and need to fight your charge, you should hire an experienced Tampa DUI lawyer to help you pursue and fight for your rights.