Breath Test Refusal At Heart Of Upcoming Florida Court Decision

The Florida Supreme Court is set to hear a case that disputes the constitutionality of the state’s implied consent law.

In Florida, drivers operate under what is known as an implied consent law. Someone who is pulled over on suspicion of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is compelled to take a blood, urine or breath test. However, a motorist can refuse this testing.

As the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles points out, refusing the test can result in legal consequences, including misdemeanor charges. The state’s highest court plans on reviewing this law in September.

The case

In October of 2013, a Florida man was pulled over because law enforcement officers suspected he may have been driving under the influence. As a report from WWSB My Suncoast notes, the man was asked to take a breath test, but he refused.

An appeals court upheld that refusing a breath test could lead to prosecution. However, the Florida Supreme Court said it will take the case under consideration. The man’s attorneys claim that the implied consent law is unconstitutional. The arresting officer in this case did not have a search warrant, which, the attorneys state, constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure.

What the current law says

Florida’s implied consent law says that when someone refuses to take a blood, urine or breath test, the refusal can be used as evidence in a criminal proceeding. If the refusal is a second or subsequent incident, the person refusing the test may be charged with a first degree misdemeanor.

Consequences of refusal

Upon first refusing a test, someone will face a driver’s license suspension of one year. Additional refusals will lead to 18-month license suspension. When it comes to commercial drivers, those licenses will be suspended for one year after the first refusal, though they will permanently lose the license for subsequent offenses.

Losing the right to refuse

There are some instances in which the law states that a driver does not have the right or the ability to refuse a test. The first situation is when someone is in a mental of physical state that hinders him or her incapable of refusing the test. For example, someone who has lost consciousness is considered incapable.

Another situation involves incidents in which a motor vehicle accident causes a fatality or serious injury. In those circumstances, the law permits medical professionals to take a blood sample from the driver, even if the driver refuses. The law goes a step further to say that reasonable force may be applied.

The implied consent law presents a potentially complicated issue, especially with the pending decision from the high court. People who have questions over this issue should speak with a defense attorney in Florida.