It can be an incredibly stressful and overwhelming situation to be stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence. In some states, you have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test at the scene. However, things are a little different in Florida.
Implied Consent Motorist Statutes
Every state has implied consent statutes for motorists. What this means is essentially that each state has laws that you have impliedly agreed to by driving on their state roads. One of these implied consent statutes dictates that anyone who holds a Florida license or operates a vehicle within the state, impliedly consents to taking one or more breath, blood, or urine tests if lawfully arrested for a DUI.
Consequences for Refusal
If you refuse a breathalyzer test in Florida, your license will immediately be suspended for one year. Often, individuals who already have a DUI on their record, hope that by refusing a breathalyzer they can avoid an additional conviction and the accompanying penalties. However, refusal can make the penalties worse. If you already have one or two DUIs on your record and refuse a chemical test, your license will immediately be suspended for 18 months. Additionally, depending on the circumstances, a refusal can result in a fine of $1,000, criminal charges, and up to a year in prison. While some may hope that by refusing the test, prosecutors will have less evidence to use against them, prosecutors often spin the refusal to take a test as proof of intoxication.
I Refused…What Can I Do Now?
If you have refused a chemical test, you still have options to move forward:
- Contest the suspension. If you wish to contest the suspension, you must write a letter of request for formal review. Note that you only have 10 days to file this from the date of refusal, so it is an action that must be taken very quickly.
- Apply for a restricted licence. If you have less than three prior DUI convictions, this is an option available to you. It is most helpful if you rely on your vehicle for work or school. In order to meet the criteria for a temporary restricted license, you must complete a substance abuse course and evaluation, and may also be required to provide letters of recommendation. This license will allow you to drive only for the purpose of work or education. In some cases, you may be required to use an Ignition Interlock Device (IID).
- Challenge the lawfulness of the arrest. In order for the arrest to be lawful, officers must have had probable cause to arrest you for DUI. Probable cause is anything that would make a reasonable person think it is more likely than not that you were driving drunk. Common examples are driving far below the speed limit and swerving or seeming unable to remain in a single traffic lane. However, the officers must have had reason to believe you were driving and under the influence in order to stop you. DUI arrests have been found to be unlawful, and refusals warranted without penalty, when the court found the officers lacked probable cause to make the arrest in the first place. In most instances, these cases involve a police officer trying to test someone who was not operating a vehicle. It is important to note that it can be difficult to prove in court that officers lacked probable cause. Unfortunately, it is not a difficult thing to manufacture. For this reason, it is wise not to refuse a chemical test in reliance on being able to challenge the arrest.
Schedule a Consultation
If you have been charged with a DUI in Florida, it is important to get trusted legal representation as soon as possible. Contact the lawyers at HAWM Law, and make sure that you have a lawyer when it matters. Schedule your free consultation today.