With her third Florida DUI arrest in three months, some are questioning the Florida DUI laws that have allowed Stacy Slabach to continue driving. The Tampa woman’s case has brought up numerous issues surrounding DUI laws in Florida and has divided the legal community as to whether the loopholes in the law that allowed Slabach to get back in a car are the fault of DUI law makers or just a necessary evil in protecting the rights of people charged but not yet convicted of a crime.
The St. Petersburg Times details the long criminal history of Slabach in their Friday morning on-line edition. The 29-year-old was arrested for driving drunk in February. She then got a second DUI on April 15. Four days later she picked up another. All of this combined with the fact she already had a conviction for DUI in 2000, left quite a few people questioning the integrity of Florida DUI laws including the co-founder of Hillsborough County’s MADD chapter.
The two issues surrounding Slabach’s case that are frustrating casual observers are that she was still driving after her first two DUI arrests this year and second that she most likely will not be facing a felony DUI charge. While there are legitimate reasons for both of those circumstances, it hasn’t stopped some from being outraged at the way Slabach’s case is playing out.
On the legal side of her DUI process, Slabach can’t be charged as a felon on DUI arrests that have not been adjudicated. She can’t be charged with a fourth-DUI if the previous two DUI charges haven’t been handled through the judicial process yet. While some may be angry that she will face misdemeanor charges on her last DUI and not a felony, it is the only way that the legal process can operate fairly and any legal scholar would tell you this is not a loophole in the law as described in today’s St. Pete Times story, as did Stetson University Law Professor Charlie Rose who was quoted in the story.
As far as the administrative side of a DUI arrest is concerned, particularly with driving privileges, Slabach went through the proper process to retain her right to drive by securing a temporary permit following a hearing for a hardship license. Now that she has twice refused to submit to breath tests in her recent DUIs, it seems very unlikely that the woman will be able to drive legally in Tampa in the near future.
While it is easy to splash the headline “Loopholes Allow Serial DUI Offender To Avoid Felony Charge” across the Internet, the truth of the matter is that these are not loopholes in the law. These are the protections built in to our system of justice that come back to the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”. That is not a loophole.