Implied Consent Law under Florida Statute Section 316.1932
Motorists in Florida are subject to the Implied Consent law, which is explained in Florida Statute 316.1932. This law governs when and how the police can request and administer tests to determine a person's blood alcohol concentration. This includes breath, urine, and blood tests. It also governs how the police can detect someone under the influence of chemical or controlled substances.
Florida Statute 316.1932 reads as follows: “Any person who accepts the privilege extended by the laws of this state of operating a motor vehicle within this state is, by so operating such vehicle, deemed to have given his or her consent to submit to an approved chemical test or physical test including, but not limited to, an infrared light test of his or her breath for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of his or her blood or breath if the person is lawfully arrested for any offense allegedly committed while the person was driving or was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages.”
What does this mean, anyway?
Essentially, by accepting the privilege of driving in the state of Florida, you have agreed to submit to approved testing for the presence of alcohol or drugs by law enforcement during a DUI investigation/lawful arrest. It's important to remember you aren't just consenting to submit to a breath test. You're also consenting to blood tests for alcohol and urine tests for drugs. If you refuse to submit to these tests, you are subject to penalties.
There is one notable exception: you are not required to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test if it is impractical or impossible. This exception would apply in a scenario where the driver is severely injured, hospitalized, or otherwise unconscious.
Penalties for DUI Refusal in Florida
What happens if you refuse to submit to a lawful test by law enforcement? There are several different penalties. Doing so may result in a one-year suspension of your driver's license.
Things get a bit more complicated if you've had your license suspended in the past for DUI refusal. In this scenario, you could have your license suspended for 18 months. You could also be subjected to criminal penalties as a second DUI refusal is a misdemeanor. These penalties would be separate from the DUI trial.
Refusal can serve as evidence in your DUI trial as well. While some drivers refuse to submit to a test to cover up the fact they are under the influence, prosecutors often use the refusal to argue that the driver was attempting to conceal his or her impairment.
If you receive criminal charges, you may face up to $1,000 in fines and up to a year in prison.
In some cases, you may be eligible for a temporary restricted license. You will be required to complete a DUI substance abuse education course and evaluation. This license would only allow you to drive for work or school. You may also be required to use an ignition interlock device (IID). These breathalyzers require you to blow into the device's mouthpiece and register a blood-alcohol concentration below the programmed limit before the vehicle can be operated.
Recommended Strategies Against a DUI Refusal Charge
Keep in mind that law enforcement is not allowed to pull you over for no reason. They also can't subject you to random tests. Instead, they must have reasonable cause to believe that you were operating the vehicle while under the influence and that the test is incidental to a lawful arrest.
Law enforcement in Florida is also required to inform you that your driver's license will be suspended if you refuse to submit to the test. They must also tell you how long it will be suspended and that refusal can be used against you in criminal proceedings. These are the proper and lawful procedures. They apply to chemical tests of your blood, breath, and urine.
People often have the misconception that they are required to submit to field sobriety tests. The law does not require you to do so. You are not subject to penalties if you refuse to take a field sobriety test. These tests are often used to uncover the probable cause for an arrest and submission to a chemical test. Knowing your rights is important, as officers are not required to inform you that you do not have to submit to a field sobriety test. Depending on the circumstances, these tests are often unreliable, and it may not be in your best interest to submit to them.
What are possible legal defense options if you are charged with a DUI refusal? First, know that an experienced DUI attorney can help you achieve the most favorable outcome. Many options are available, but they require a committed, proficient DUI attorney.
Your attorney will likely review whether the law enforcement officer violated your rights.
As described earlier, several laws and procedures regarding DUI testing and arrest exist. Law enforcement officers must follow them to the letter. Your attorney may argue that your rights were violated. These arguments may take shape as assertions that the arresting law enforcement officer did not have probable cause to pull you over in the first place. Your attorney will also study the details of your arrest and make note of any proper protocol that was not followed.
Just because you have been arrested and charged with a DUI refusal does not mean you will be convicted of the offense. The State has the burden of proof to convict you of the offense, and you have the right to have a judge hear and rule on your case impartially. Only the judge can come to the ultimate ruling on your case, but a skilled, experienced DUI attorney can help argue your case and present the evidence in the most favorable light.
Entering a guilty plea for a DUI refusal will open you up to several serious consequences, including the suspension or loss of your driver's license, fines, and criminal charges. Your attorney can argue that your rights were violated or you had a lawful reason for not submitting to the test and have your charges dismissed or dropped.