Question: Is a Florida driver required to submit to an alcohol breath test if asked
by law enforcement?
Answer: Upon receiving a Florida driver’s license, an individual signs
a document indicating one’s willingness to submit to a breath alcohol
test. In fact, at the bottom of every Florida driver’s license there
is language which states, in small print, “Operation of a motor
vehicle constitutes consent to any sobriety test required by law.”
Thus, the question becomes what is actually required by law.
Under Florida law, if an individual refuses to submit to a breath test,
or a blood or urine test for that matter, the first refusal will result
in the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles issuing an
administrative suspension of your Florida driver’s license for a period of 12 months.
A second or subsequent refusal, however, will result in a criminal 1st degree misdemeanor charge, prosecuted by the Office of the State Attorney,
as well as an
administrative Florida driver’s license suspension of 18 months. The 1st degree misdemeanor charge can result in a sentence up to one year in jail,
or one year of probation, and a fine up to $1,000.00. This refusal is
a separate charge from any
Driving Under the Influence criminal prosecution.
Of course, a law enforcement officer has to have a good reason to request
such, as in the arresting law enforcement officer has probable cause to
believe the individual was driving or in actual physical control of a
motor vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages, chemical
substances, or controlled substances. Thus, an officer will not simply
pull over people for the fun of it and ask them to submit to a breath,
blood or urine test. Likewise, an officer, after placing the individual
under arrest for Driving Under the Influence, will read something referred
to as “Implied Consent,” which advises the individual of the
consequences of refusing to submit to a breath test.
In the event there is a crash, and it is likely that serious bodily injury
or death is imminent, then law enforcement may obtain a blood draw notwithstanding
the individual objecting to such. Likewise, law enforcement will occasionally
obtain medical records from the hospital where an individual involved
in a crash is being treated, and can use the medical blood draw records
regarding alcohol and controlled substances as evidence during a jury
trial, presuming the proper steps are taken and there are no grounds for
suppression of such.
It is true that refusing to submit to a breath, blood or urine test can
make it more difficult for the prosecution in a Driving Under the Influence
case. However, if you refuse, you immediately receive a driver’s
license suspension, at least
administratively, as well as commit a criminal offense if it is your second or subsequent
refusal. Thus, choose wisely when under this circumstance. And, considering
you likely are under the influence of something when being asked to make
this decision, you might want to spend some time thinking about this issue
while you are reading the Legal Column, hopefully in a sober state on
this Monday morning.
As always, the safest thing to do is avoid driving while under the influence
of any alcohol or drugs. However, if your judgment lapses, and you end
up charged with a crime, contact my law office immediately for a free
consultation. Write down my information and carry it in your wallet so
you will have it if things go wrong, or tell your loved ones and friends
my information so they can be ready if things take a downward turn. As
always, my office is only seven digits away at 215-0628.