Are Florida Drivers Required to Take a Breath Test If Pulled Over for DUI?
A set of bright lights behind you nearly blinds you while driving down an isolated road in Central Florida. Suddenly, flashing red and blue lights signal that your night just took a turn for the worst. You have been selected for a DUI stop. What could go wrong?
All drivers stopped for DUI in and around Orlando face a tough decision: to blow into the breathalyzer, or refuse? It’s a question clients ask DUI attorneys again and again, yet it has no direct answer. The fact is, whether you decide to take the breath test or not can help or hurt your case, depending on the other facts surrounding it. The State of Florida issues penalties to DUI suspects who refuse to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test, which may make matters worse even if ultimately the court does not convict them of DUI. Before deciding whether to submit to or refuse a breath test, it’s important to understand how implied consent laws work.
What Happens If You Refuse to Take the Breath Test?
Refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test in Florida results in a mandatory license suspension. A first DUI offense with a refusal to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test results in a one-year license suspension, in addition to the penalties you may face for the DUI itself. At the time you refuse the BAC test, the arresting officer should inform you that if you have a prior license suspension for refusing to blow, your current refusal can lead to misdemeanor charges.
A second and third refusal of a BAC test may result in:
- A license suspension of up to 18 months.
- Jail time if you are found guilty or have a hardcore prosecutor who is offering you a bad plea offer because you had multiple DUIs.
- No ability to get an Administrative Waiver which is an easy way for first offenders to get a hardship license.
- Denial of a hardship license.
- You can be charged with a separate misdemeanor offense for a second refusal.
Keep in mind that a license suspension for refusing a breathalyzer or other chemical BAC test is an administrative penalty that is entirely separate from the license suspension you may face upon a DUI conviction.
It’s the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles that takes away your driving privilege after a breath test refusal, not the court. The time you spend without a license due to your administrative suspension may not count toward the license suspension period the court imposes upon a conviction; therefore, refusing to submit to a sobriety test can result in it taking substantially longer to regain your legal driving ability. You may reduce that time with the help of a DUI lawyer who can request an administrative review hearing.
Florida’s Implied Consent Laws
When you signed for your Florida driver’s license, you agreed to comply with a law enforcement officer’s requests to submit to approved field sobriety and/or chemical tests to determine your level of drug or alcohol impairment. Any person who accepts the privilege of driving has previously given consent to an alcohol test, whether it be a blood draw, breath, or urine test. This is called “implied consent” and is described in §316.1932 of the 2018 Florida Statutes.
All 50 states have implied consent laws that take effect when an officer suspects you’re impaired behind the wheel and thus need to check your blood alcohol concentration or BAC. Any BAC at or above 0.08% will result in a DUI arrest. Refusing to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test or field sobriety test is a violation of the law and may result in additional penalties, such as an automatic license suspension.
Can Orlando Police Officers Force a Breathalyzer (BAC) Test?
For the most part, police officers cannot force you to undergo a breath, blood, or urine test; however, if you’re unconscious, they may administer a blood test. Police may also force a blood draw when your DUI injured a person or if you’re stopped for your third DUI.
The arresting officer must obtain a search warrant before forcing a blood sample from an unwilling DUI suspect. Your DUI lawyer will look into every detail of how your arrest was handled and may be able to challenge the actions of the arresting officer in your case.
Challenging Breathalyzer Results
Ultimately, you violate Florida’s implied consent laws when you refuse to take a breathalyzer test. If your BAC result strengthens the prosecutor’s case, your attorney will likely dive into the science behind it to check for flaws. Breathalyzer tests can be highly inaccurate, and many things can go wrong when you submit to one.
Whether you refuse to take the breath test or not, it’s crucial to work with a DUI lawyer who understands what the prosecution will bring to the table. At the Umansky Law Firm, our team of experienced lawyers is composed of former prosecutors who thoroughly grasp Florida’s drunk driving laws. Attorney William Umansky serves on the Orange County Bar Association as Executive Council and is a current member of the Florida Justice Association. Together, our team has more than 100 years of combined experience fighting DUI charges throughout Central Florida.
Call our office to discuss your case for free or complete our contact form and tell us a bit about your case.