If police believe you are under the influence of alcohol while operating a motor vehicle, they will likely ask you to take a Breathalyzer to try to measure your blood alcohol content (BAC).
Under Florida law, you don’t have to submit to a breath test, and many people exercise that right. However, refusing a Breathalyzer doesn’t guarantee you won’t be charged with DUI, and you could face other penalties.
Law enforcement methods to detect intoxication
Police use three basic methods to check whether a driver’s BAC is above the legal limit of .08%. These are:
- Breath tests: DUI suspects blow into these small devices, which use infrared light to measure ethanol molecules. Breathalyzers are notoriously flawed, and courts have tossed out results in many cases across the country.
- Blood tests: Some believe this to be the most effective way to measure BAC accurately. However, the tests involve many steps, and questions often surface over whether officers correctly draw, preserve and test samples.
- Field sobriety tests: Established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, three physical tests attempt to measure a suspect’s coordination, suggesting whether they’re intoxicated. However, many factors can lead to erroneous conclusions by law enforcement.
Florida’s implied consent law
While you can refuse these tests, Florida law punishes you for that refusal. Under the state’s implied consent law, drivers who refuse DUI testing receive an automatic one-year license suspension. Those with previous DUIs face an 18-month suspension as well as possible misdemeanor offenses and jail time. These penalties are separate from a potential DUI charge.
Understand the consequences of a breath test refusal
Many drivers assume that a positive breath test assures a DUI conviction. That is not correct, as many factors determine their fate, including the validity of the tests themselves. That’s why it may be in your best interest to submit to testing and seek legal help before answering any questions from law enforcement.