Do I Need to Submit to a Breathalyzer Test if I'm Pulled Over for DUI?
The holidays are upon us and that means that holiday parties are upon us as well. Office parties, gatherings of families and friends, New Year’s Eve festivities – these annual events almost always have one thing in common: booze. Statistics show that the number drunk driving accidents, injuries, and deaths spike during the holiday season. South Florida law enforcement knows this; that’s why they are especially aggressive in going after suspected drunk drivers during this most wonderful time of the year.
If you get pulled over by the police for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), you may be understandably scared and unsure of what to do. First and foremost, be polite and respectful, but don’t volunteer any information. Comply with the officer’s request to provide license, registration, and insurance information but do not answer any questions, especially not whether you have been drinking. If you are asked questions, politely say you’d like to speak to an attorney first.
If you are asked to exit your vehicle, comply but be sure to inform the officer that you would like to speak with an attorney. More likely than not, you will also be asked to take a breathalyzer test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC). There is no penalty for refusing a breath test done at roadside, or a PAS test. These are not “approved tests”. However, there are penalties for refusing a breathalyzer at the station or at the BAT mobile. The question you’ll be asking yourself at that point, especially if you know or suspect that you may be over the legal limit, is should I submit to the breathalyzer test?
The answer is it depends. You have the option to refuse the breath test if your DUI case did not result in serious bodily injury to another, however there are consequences.
If you do blow and the results show a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher (.05 or higher if you’re under 21 years old), your license will be immediately suspended and the results may be used against you in your criminal court DUI case. While a breathalyzer reading above the legal limit doesn’t mean you will automatically be found guilty of DUI in criminal court, the test results can be used as powerful evidence against you. That said, refusing a breathalyzer test is not without penalties in Florida.
Like most other states, Florida has what is called an “Implied Consent Law.” This means that when you received your driver’s license, you gave your implied consent to submit to an “approved breath, blood or urine test”, if you are properly pulled over by the police. This does not include field sobriety physical exercises and eye tests. For a number of reasons, it’s advisable to always refuse those in most cases.
However, if you refuse to take any of the approved chemical tests mentioned, your driver’s license will be immediately suspended for one year. A second refusal will result in an 18-month suspension and is also a separate misdemeanor punishable by up to one (1) year in jail. Additionally, the refusal to submit to an approved chemical breath, blood or urine test upon the request of a law enforcement officer is admissible into evidence against you in any criminal proceeding. So, it is a personal decision you will have to make which depends on whether this is your first refusal and whether you feel you want to exercise your option to refuse risking the license suspension that comes with it to possibly have a better opportunity to win your criminal DUI case.
You can also fight the refusal suspension in administrative court. Changes to Florida’s driving laws in 2013 made it easier to challenge certain suspensions and obtain temporary relief that can allow you to regain your driving privileges while DUI charges are pending, though that is by no means guaranteed. The time to seek such relief is very short, ten (10) days from your arrest date and qualifying for such relief can be complicated unless you have a DUI lawyer at your side.
Regardless of whether you refuse to take a breathalyzer test or submit to one, if you’ve been pulled over, arrested, or charged with DUI in South Florida, it is crucial that you contact an experienced drunk driving defense lawyer as soon as you can.
Albert Quirantes: Your Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer & DUI Lawyer
For over 28 years, Miami criminal defense attorney Albert M. Quirantes has been aggressively and zealously defending the rights of those accused of felony and misdemeanor crimesthroughout South Florida. With his dedicated team, reasonable legal fees, and a well-earned reputation for challenging prosecutors at every turn, he has protected over 8,000 clients during some of the roughest times of their lives.
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