When investigating someone for driving under the influence (DUI), it's common for an officer to ask the driver to take a breath, urine, or blood test to determine the amount of alcohol or drugs in their system. The driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or the concentration of drugs in the driver's blood is often used to prove a DUI in court.
This article gives an overview of Florida's implied consent law and the consequences of an unlawful refusal.
Florida's implied consent law specifies that any person who holds a Florida driver's license or operates a vehicle within the state is deemed to have consented to one or more of three tests (blood, breath, and urine) if lawfully arrested for a DUI.
A driver who has been arrested for a DUI must submit to an infrared light breath test (also known as a "breathalyzer") if requested to do so by the arresting officer.
If an officer suspects a driver is under the influence of an intoxicating chemical or controlled substance (as opposed to just alcohol) and makes an arrest, the driver cannot lawfully refuse to take a urine test.
A blood test can be used to test for the concentration of alcohol and the presence of controlled substances. However, a driver is not required to take a blood test unless a breath or urine test is impractical or impossible, such as when a driver is hospitalized or unconscious.
Refusing a blood, breath, or urine test in violation of Florida's implied consent law can lead to a variety of different consequences.
Unlawful refusal of a chemical test will result in a one-year driver's license suspension for a first offense. A second or subsequent refusal carries an 18-month suspension.
Depending on the circumstances, an unlawful refusal might also lead to criminal charges. A conviction will result in a maximum of $1,000 in fines and up to one year in jail.
A driver may believe that refusing a test will make it difficult to prove he or she was driving under the influence. However, the fact that a driver refused to submit to testing can be used against the driver in a criminal case.
While refusal doesn't exactly prove intoxication, prosecutors often argue a refusal is indicative that the person was trying to hide impairment.
Drivers who have their license suspended for a refusal are eligible for a temporary restricted license. To be eligible, the applicant must complete a DUI substance abuse education course and evaluation and may be required to provide letters of recommendation.
A restricted license allows the holder to drive only for business or educational purposes, and the driver may be required to use an ignition interlock device (IID) as a condition of the restricted license.
Third-time violators are not eligible for the restricted license.
A driver suspended for refusing a chemical test must submit a written request for formal review within ten days if he or she wishes to contest the suspension.
Florida's implied consent rule applies only if the driver is lawfully arrested for a DUI offense. For a DUI arrest to be lawful, the officer must have probable cause to believe that the driver was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
If a driver is able to establish that the police did not have probable cause to make the arrest, the hearing officer or judge is generally supposed to throw out the allegations or charges.