According to a report by WFTV, four out of every 10 Florida drivers stopped by police for suspected drunk driving refuse to submit to breathalyzer tests. Something that many people may not be aware of is how severe the penalty can be just for refusing to take the breath test.
Florida’s current law regarding breath tests, known as Florida’s Implied Consent Law, states that any motorist who simply accepts the “privilege… of operating a motor vehicle within this state is… deemed to have given his or her consent to submit to… [a] test of his or her breath for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of his or her blood or breath.”
The condensed version of the law means that if you choose to drive in the state of Florida, you have already consented to a breathalyzer test and if you refuse to take one then you can and will be punished. The punishments can be quite severe as well; with a first refusal punishable by a suspension of a driver’s license and a second refusal being considered a first-degree misdemeanor and a criminal offense.
However, if you have refused a breath test there are still other options. For example, if you refuse to provide a breath sample, you are entitled to a DMV hearing in which you can challenge the license suspension.
Given the current 40% refusal rate in the state, some have called for a change in Florida law. In other states, if a motorist refuses to take a breath test then police will simply take their blood and screen it for alcohol, regardless of whether the driver gives consent. The idea is that people will be more likely to take a breathalyzer if the alternative is a needle. Drawing blood when someone refuses a breath test has been done in Florida by Brevard and Hillsborough counties. However, when these counties implemented such incredibly intrusive blood draws, Florida courts overturned their DUI convictions. This has lead some to argue for a change to state law which would permit such invasive tests. However, until the state Supreme Court steps in, blood draws will only be allowed when someone is hurt, or a suspect is stopped for at least a third time.
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