Fired Tampa DUI Sergeant Fights to Get his Job Back

The Tampa Police Department DUI team supervisor who was fired after allegations about his conduct in the much publicized DUI arrest of attorney Phil Campbell earlier this year is attempting to get his job back. He has just had a grievance meeting with Assistant Police Chief John Newman at the Tampa Town Hall with several others present, although his own attorney did most of the talking.

Sergeant Fitzgerald and his attorney, Chip Purcell, think he did nothing wrong when he arrested Campbell after apparently getting a tip off from someone he knew who was working for Campbell’s opposing side in the Todd MJ Schnitt vs Bubba the Love Sponge Clem legal wrangle.

The fight to get Fernandez reinstated has apparently only just started and could take a year before a final decision is made. There are several organizations involved in the investigation into the happenings that took place the day that Campbell was arrested. These include the FBI, the Police Department itself and the Florida Bar. The latter is particularly looking at the conduct of the two key lawyers at the Adams and Diaco law firm that had been representing Bubba at the time of the arrest – Adam Filthault and Steve Diaco.

Adam Filthault, one of the firm’s lawyers, just happens to be Sergeant Fernandez’s son’s godfathers and the two obviously know each other well. The Tampa Police Department has said that 92 text messages were sent between Filthault, Fernandez and Ms. Personius, the paralegal working for Adams and Diaco who had met Phil Campbell at Mario’s Bar the night he was arrested. It was Ms. Personius’s car that was being driven by Campbell when he was stopped by Fernandez and another police officer and then subsequently arrested.

Purcell said that it would have been impossible to send 92 text messages just about where and what Phil Campbell had been doing that night. He said that they also exchanged news about paintball and their kids.

Chief Jane Castor of the Police Department maintains that Sergeant Fernandez abused his power as a police officer during the arrest and allowed personal relationships he had to influence him.

Fernandez’s attorney said that the meeting at the Town Hall went well and felt “very encouraged” about the prospects of his client being reinstated.

The Tampa Police Department now has two weeks to make a decision after reviewing the case. If it still refuses to reinstate the ex Sergeant, the whole affair goes to another hearing with the city, then an independent arbitrator, whose decision is supposed to be binding.

Meanwhile, Phil Campbell’s own attorney in the DUI case is not at all happy with what he considered went on before and after his client’s arrest. He thinks that some of the lawyers involved in what he believes was a set up by the Adams And Diaco firm should be disbarred after being investigated. The odds don’t necessarily favor this. The Florida Bar apparently investigates nearly 700 lawyers every year in the state, with around half of them facing some sort of disciplinary action. However, only a handful, about 1 in 1000, actually gets disbarred every year.

This whole story started with a radio personality’s reputation at stake. It has now mushroomed out of proportion and several reputations now hinge on the resolution of the Fernandez case. This includes Sergeant Fernandez himself, the lawyers at the Adams and Diaco firm and the Tampa Police Department. Last, but not least, are the dozens of people who have been arrested as a result of Sergeant Fernandez for DUI over the years whose cases are also being reviewed. The story will be continued to be watched by many people in Tampa and across the state in the weeks and months to come.


Tampa a Possible Location for Goodman DUI Retrial

The retrial of International Polo Club Chairman John Goodman for DUI has been prolonged because of accusations over the suitability of a previous juror. It has now been suggested that because of adverse publicity over the trial in Palm Beach County, the retrial may take place in Tampa or another location in Florida. A senior judge in Palm Beach, Justice Colbath, denied the trial move last Friday unless suitable jurors cannot be found in the county.

Goodman is on house arrest at present, pending the retrial. He was originally sentenced in 2012 for DUI manslaughter after the car he was driving in veered into the path of an engineering student at the University of Florida, Scott Wilson. Wilson’s vehicle was pushed off the road and into a swamp. He was drowned and died as a result of the accident. Goodman was alleged to have had a blood alcohol level of twice the allowed limit of 0.08% and was sentenced to 16 years in jail.

A retrial was ordered after one of the jurors in the original trial that found Goodman guilty was accused of misconduct by the defendant’s defense attorneys. 70 year old Dennis DeMartin was alleged to have failed to reveal that his ex-wife had been arrested for DUI in the pre-trial jury selection process. If this allegation was true, then it could mean that DeMartin was in contempt of court, as he would have lied about his suitability as a juror in a DUI case and hence the original trial would have been invalid.

The retrial has been delayed because DeMartin’s suitability has not yet been decided. Judge Colbath has delayed the hearing into DeMartin’s conduct until an assessment of his mental state has been made.  Meanwhile, there has been a push from Goodman’s defense attorneys to have the retrial moved to another county. They have contended that a fair trial is impossible in Palm Beach County because of the huge amount of publicity about the case. They have said that the likelihood of finding impartial jurors would now be too difficult.

Judge Colbath has since ruled that the request for a change in county venue is inadmissible on the grounds that the county should be able to furnish suitable jurors. However, he has stated that if suitable jurors are not forthcoming that it will then be possible to change the trial location. Tampa, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Ocala are the possible alternatives for the retrial.

The Deputy State Attorney has said that nothing has been satisfactory so far about the Goodman case. He said that it was unlikely that there would be any difficulties finding suitable jurors from within Palm Beach County and was sure that the retrial would take place there.

The case does demonstrate the necessity for giving a DUI defendant a fair trial. This is everyone’s constitutional right. If you have been arrested for DUI in Tampa, it is highly unlikely that there will be anything like the publicity about your arrest as there has been for John Goodman. However, the lack of publicity is no reason why you shouldn’t be granted exactly the same privileges as the head of the International Polo Club. In any DUI trial, the prosecution has to prove beyond any doubt that you were guilty of the offense you have been charged with.

An experienced and aggressive Tampa DUI lawyer will work on your behalf to defend you against a DUI charge that could lead to serious and long lasting consequences for you and your family. DUI is a very serious charge in this state. It is not treated in the same way as an ordinary traffic offense, like speeding. For a start, a DUI conviction will mean that you have a criminal record and this, more than anything else, will affect nearly every aspect of your future life. A skillful Tampa DUI defense attorney will be able to examine every aspect of your DUI arrest and search for inconsistencies and inaccuracies that can help to reduce your sentence or get your case dismissed altogether.

Sergeant in High profile Tampa attorney DUI Arrest Fired by Police Chief

If you are a Tampa resident, in fact, even if you are from anywhere else in Florida you may remember the DUI arrest of Phil Campbell, the Tampa attorney who was representing Todd M.J.-Schnitt in his lawsuit against Bubba the Love Sponge early in the year.

The case was memorable at the time, partly because of the acrimonious and completely public series of exchanges over the radio between the two shock jocks, but also because the police officer who was present at the arrest of Campbell was accused by Campbell’s firm of having inside knowledge of Campbell’s whereabouts at the time.

In fact, just to recap a little on the case, Phil Campbell had been drinking one night with a female paralegal who worked for the rival law firm representing Mr. Campbell’s client’s adversary. Campbell claimed not to have known who the woman, Melissa Personius, was at the time or the significance of having a drink with her. The police officer who stopped Campbell, allegedly after observing him driving erratically, later acknowledged to have been informed about Campbell’s tete a tete with Ms Personius by his friend at the Adams and Diaco law firm, Adam Filthaut, who was working for Bubba.

Mr. Campbell’s DUI arrest was subsequently dropped by the state attorney, partly because of lack of sufficient evidence and also because of the publicity about Sergeant Fernandez’s motives. Campbell had not performed well at the sobriety tests carried out after he had been stopped, but claimed this was because of medication he had been taking. He refused to take a breathalyzer test, so the prosecution had limited real evidence with which to prosecute him. Theoretically, a DUI charge depends on being able to prove that the arrestee had more than 0.08% blood alcohol content at the time they were driving. Prosecution is possible, although more difficult to prove, if there are no results from a chemical test available to indicate the BAC of the person arrested.

Later this year, the FBI apparently took an interest in the police officer’s story about his relationship with Mr. Filthaut at the Adams and Diaco firm and what exactly he said or did not say after Campbell’s arrest. The FBI investigation is not yet over, but the Tampa Police Chief, Jane Castor, has said that there is sufficient information available to suggest that Fernandez had been misleading about his role in the Campbell arrest. She cited the fact that Fernandez had claimed that 95 text messages, all apparently between the Sergeant and  at the Diaco firm had been “accidentally erased”. Chief Castor said that this really was not credible.

Sergeant Fernandez’s own legal counsel is understandably unhappy about the dismissal and is prepared to appeal against it.

It is highly unlikely that many Tampa residents are so famous that they are pursued by police officers who know what they have been drinking and who they have been drinking with. However, the developments in this case do reinforce the fact that DUI arrests are not always as clear cut as the arresting officers would like to make out. In fact, you don’t have to be famous to be arrested for DUI in Tampa under circumstances which can be disputed by a good DUI lawyer.

DUI is a serious offense in this state and there are harsh penalties for anyone who is convicted. Even a first offense can land someone in jail, in addition to paying a substantial fine, lose their license for a specified period and pay higher insurance rates as a result of the conviction. A DUI conviction is a criminal conviction and will stay on your record for a very long time. It could affect your job, your ability to seek promotion or change your career, or seek credit.

Don’t let a DUI arrest intimidate you into accepting a charge that you have not committed. Fight your DUI charge by hiring an experienced and aggressive Tampa DUI attorney. A good attorney will ensure your constitutional rights are upheld and that you get the justice that you deserve, not one that has been concocted by law enforcement officers who just want to get a conviction.

What you should know about field sobriety tests

If you are driving and are stopped on suspicion of being drunk, you will probably be asked to take field sobriety tests. These are exercises which are used by law enforcers to find out if a driver is under the influence (DUI) and is not able to drive safely. When you are stopped, these tests are important, as the law enforcer will decide from the results whether to arrest you.

You won’t have too much time to think about your situation as the tests will take place at the site where you were stopped. These tests are usually videotaped so that they can be used as evidence in court.

You do not have to take the sobriety tests

You do not have to take these tests when asked. It may seem easier to agree than refuse. This is what the law enforcer wants you to do. Once you have taken these tests, it is far more difficult to defend yourself. If you are in this situation, you should think before agreeing. That is your legal right.

What will happen in the tests?

The tests try to find out if you can walk properly, think clearly, see clearly and speak clearly.

The first test will ask you to follow an object as the officer waves it in front of your face, like a pen or a finger. In the second test, the officer will ask you to stand on one leg and in the third test you will be asked to walk and then turn. The final test is a speaking test and you may be asked to say some of the letters of the alphabet.

How Does the Law Enforcer Decide if You Are Drunk?

In Florida, each officer has been trained how to give out and assess the sobriety tests. While watching you perform the tests, the officer will decide if you are following his or her instructions and also how you perform in the tests.

If you are unable to focus your eyes on the moving object, you fall over or stumble when asked to stand on one leg and turn around and you can’t be heard clearly when saying the alphabet then the officer will at this point decide that you are DUI.

By taking the sobriety tests you have now given the arresting officer not only the chance to arrest you, but the opportunity along with the State Attorney, the chance to prove that you were DUI.

A decision made if you were DUI can be decided only from the results of your sobriety tests. This is not very accurate, as the tests are not scientific. That means they cannot be measured exactly. Your lawyer might be able to argue in your favor if your weight or age has had an effect on your sobriety test results. You may have an injury that has some affect on your movement or you may be more tired than usual due to a longer than normal day at work. There are also other factors that might work in your favor, which could be related to conditions underfoot, the weather at the time, the amount of light available to see and understand the officer’s instructions.

If you have been arrested for DUI and you think that the sobriety tests were not reliable for any of the reasons given above, you should tell your lawyer, so he or she can argue in your defense.

What is Florida’s Implied Consent Law?

If you have been stopped anywhere in Florida under suspicion that you have been drinking and driving, you will probably be asked to carry out some tests outside your car. The police call these sobriety tests as they are supposed to give an idea of how sober you might be. The tests include things like walking in a straight line and turning, standing on one foot and counting or reciting the alphabet. The policeman who has stopped you will probably smell your breath at the same time and may even ask you to use a field breathalyzer.

These tests can be biased, as it depends on the policeman’s personal judgment as to whether you are drunk or not. You are not forced to do these tests. You can refuse to do them, but you will probably be arrested for DUI anyway and your license will be seized immediately. You will also have to go to the nearest police station and be asked to take a test to measure your blood alcohol content or BAC.

If you have a Florida license you may remember something called “implied consent” when you got your license. In fact, these words are written in small letters on your driver license. It means that in this state you are only allowed to drive because you have agreed that you will take a blood or breath test for blood alcohol if you are arrested for drunk driving. This is why it is called “implied consent”. You have consented to take a test when asked to do so in exchange for being allowed to drive.

In fact, if you have been already arrested for DUI and taken to a police station, you still have the right to refuse to take a blood or breath test, unless you have been involved in an accident in which somebody has been seriously injured or killed. If you refuse, then you must realize that there are some serious consequences. Your license will be suspended automatically for 12 months for a first refusal. If it is the second time you have refused, then your license will be suspended for 18 months and you will be charged with a 1st degree misdemeanor.

This could mean a big fine or jail or both. Your charge could also be added to the charge of DUI if you are convicted of that offense. Your refusal can and probably will be used as evidence against you in court, even though the police have no results of a blood test for alcohol. The prosecutor will say that your refusal is evidence that you were knowingly drunk.

Whatever you choose to do when arrested for DUI, you are best getting a good Tampa DUI lawyer to represent you, even if you have refused a BAC test. Most lawyers will generally recommend that you do not refuse to take a BAC test as the consequences of refusing can be as bad as or even worse than being DUI. Also, a good DUI lawyer knows how to tackle your DUI arrest and charge by examining every step of the arrest carefully and critically.

DUI lawyers can get you off a DUI charge or at least get the sentence minimized. You can still choose to refuse to take an alcohol test, but Florida’s implied consent laws mean you will be penalized quite severely.