What happens if you refuse to perform a breath test?

By Jonathan Blecher on December 30, 2022

When a police officer pulls you over, their goal is to write you a ticket or gather enough evidence to arrest you for a criminal violation. If they suspect alcohol impairment, they will ask you questions and request that you submit to roadside sobriety exercises to try to build a case against you.

It is only natural to want to avoid making mistakes that would implicate you and potentially lead to criminal charges. If a police officer asks you to perform a chemical breath test after a DUI arrest in Florida, you may not want to take the test. After all, the tests often return questionable results, especially when police officers haven’t recently calibrated them or when the person taking the test has certain medical issues.

Can you refuse to take a chemical breath test after a DUI arrest from a Florida traffic stop?

Florida law requires that drivers agree to testing

Anyone operating a motor vehicle on Florida roads has already given implied consent to chemical testing during a traffic stop. You accept that officers have the right to request a test when they have probable cause to suspect impairment as a condition of driving on public roads and maintaining a state license.

Refusing to submit to the test is not an arrestable offense but  they will arrest you based on their observations of impairment. The first time someone refuses a breath test, the state will suspend their driver’s license for a full year. A second refusal will get you an 18-month suspension and a potential misdemeanor charge that could lead to up to a year in jail and fines of up to $1,000. This suspension is in addition to any other penalties you may face for the DUI charge itself.

Refusing a test won’t prevent charges

One of the reasons people fight an officer’s request for breath testing is that they assume there will then be very little, if any, evidence to prove their intoxication. However, a police officer can submit video footage of how the driver performed on a field sobriety test or traffic camera footage showing them driving very poorly. Prosecutors can use the driver’s refusal to take the test as consciousness of guilt.

Simply put, refusing a breath test does not guarantee you can avoid impaired driving charges or prevent a conviction. It is generally in your best interest to cooperate with law enforcement and take the breath test, even if you believe you are not impaired. Challenging chemical breath test results may be a better option than openly refusing testing for those accused of a drunk driving offense in Florida.

If you have any concerns about your rights or the legal process, contact us. We’ll be happy to talk with you about your case.

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