According to a WFTV9 report from a few years ago, four out of every ten drivers who are stopped for DUI in the state of Florida refuse a breathalyzer test. Many in law enforcement find this statistic surprising, because, under Florida law all drivers give their consent for a chemical or physical test simply by possessing a Florida driver’s license. While many states have implied consent laws, Florida has taken it one step further. Under Florida Statutes, Section 316.1932, your refusal to submit to a breath test may be used against you at trial to show your “consciousness of guilt.”
The tests you could be asked to take (other than a breath test), under the implied consent law, include a urine test, a field sobriety exercises, and a blood test. Should you refuse a breath test, you may face a full year-long suspension of your license. This is assuming your DUI stop and subsequent arrest were lawful, meaning the police officer had good reason to pull you over, and probable cause to arrest you. If, however, your arrest was unlawful, then the refusal cannot be used to suspend your driver’s license. You have a right to a hearing on the suspension with the Florida Department of Highway and Safety Motor Vehicles (which is separate from the criminal case), and motions or defenses can be raised at the hearing to have the suspension set aside. If you lose the hearing, there is a mandatory 90 day hard time (this is a period where you can not get any driver’s license, not even a business purpose only license) that you will have to serve. Otherwise, you can waive the hearing and a business purpose only license can be applied for immediately (you must be enrolled in DUI School and pay the required DHSMV fees for the consideration of the business purpose only license).
Florida’s Pre-Trial Diversion Program and Refusal to Submit to a Breath Test
There is another issue regarding refusal to submit to a breath test; if you refuse a breathalyzer test in the state of Florida, you become ineligible for Florida’s diversion program for first-time offenders—a considerably lesser sentence than you would receive from refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test. However, such programs are not offered in every Florida county.
Under Florida’s pre-trial diversion program, you might end up performing community service, attending DUI school, and perhaps taking a Victim’s Awareness Program. You would probably also have to deal with fines and fees, but the most positive aspect of a pre-trial diversion program is that when you have completed the program, your DUI charges would be dropped, and you could petition the court to have your DUI arrest removed from your record.
Penalties for Refusing to Submit to a Breath Test
As noted, the first time you refuse a breath test, your driver’s license could be suspended for a year. If you refuse a second, third or subsequent times, the penalties increase to an 18-month suspension of your driver’s license, and you could be charged with an additional misdemeanor for refusing to submit to a breath test which could result in jail time.
So—Should You Submit to the Breath Test?
Obviously, the state of Florida expects your full cooperation and will almost certainly impose penalties, should you withhold that cooperation, but what many people are unaware of are the many issues currently associated with breath tests. Some of the most commonly used breath test machines cannot accurately distinguish between alcohol found deep in the lungs and mouth alcohol. What this means for the average person is that even small amounts of residual mouth alcohol can lead to an inflated BAC reading.
In short, you could be far from impaired, yet blow over the legal limit. Yet, refusing the breath test is no guarantee you will not still be convicted of DUI, since even without proof of your BAC, if the police officer convinces the court you were driving extremely erratically or dangerously, then the argument will be that you refused the breath test because you knew you were guilty of DUI.
Why You Need Solid Legal Assistance As Quickly As Possible
As you can see, there are many things to consider if you have been charged with DUI, and having an experienced Florida DUI attorney from The Law Place can help you make the right decisions for your future. A DUI conviction can have very serious, far-reaching consequences and should be avoided if at all possible.
A conviction could hamper your ability to obtain employment in the future, rent a home, obtain a government-based student loan to return to college, obtain a professional license or own a firearm. Your auto insurance rates will almost certainly go up for a significant length of time and you will spend substantial amounts of money on fines and fees. Don’t take your future and your freedom for granted—get the best defense possible by contacting The Law Place at 941-444-4444.