Generally, Florida drivers are well-aware of that fact that it’s illegal to drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol. They tend to know that a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction will lead to a license suspension, fines, points on their driving record, and other hefty penalties.
However, few people understand DUI stops, especially as they pertain to rules, procedures, and laws. For instance, during a standard DUI stop, the police officer will ask drivers to perform two types of tests: 1) a series of field sobriety tests, and 2) a chemical test in the form of a blood, breath or urine test. What most drivers don’t know is if you refuse to take the blood, breath, or urine test, your driver's license will automatically be suspended for one year.
What the vast majority of drivers don’t know is that when it comes to field sobriety tests and chemical tests: if you refuse to take one kind nothing bad will happen, but if you refuse to take the other, your driver's license will be suspended automatically for one year. So, which is which? Our Tampa DUI attorneys answer your questions below.
If you're wondering whether it's better to refuse a test rather than risk showing a BAC of .08 or higher, read below.
Implied Consent & the Consequences of Refusing a Chemical Test
You're legally obligated to take chemical DUI tests due to the implied consent law in Florida. When you received your driver's license, you agreed (knowingly or not) to take any chemical tests asked of you by an officer who suspects you are driving while impaired. Implied consent applies to multiple tests; if you agree to take one test, but you refuse to take any additional test that is requested of you, you would still face the full penalties for refusal.
Here’s what the law has to say about it:
Under Section 316.1932(1)(a)1.a. of the Florida Statutes, it reads: “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.”
Implied consent law also means that you could face serious penalties regardless of whether you were actually intoxicated or ever convicted. You can be fully sober, and your DUI charges could be dropped, but if you refused a chemical DUI test, you would still be hit with a driver's license suspension penalty. The first refusal will mean a one-year suspension of your driver's license. Any subsequent refusals would result in an 18-month license suspension and in a jail sentence.
Is It Better to Refuse the Test Than Fail It?
Some drivers think they'd rather take the license suspension rather than risk getting a DUI. However, refusing the test may not be worth it just to avoid giving evidence to a prosecutor. Consider this: a failed DUI test can still be contested by a skilled DUI attorney. Additionally, even if a prosecutor does not have a failed DUI test to hold up against you, he or she could still convict you of driving under the influence through other evidence, such as the arresting officer's testimony of your behavior and appearance.
Ultimately, the law gives you few options during your traffic stop. If you've been arrested for DUI, the lawyer you choose will determine the outcome of your case, whether you refused the chemical DUI test—or took it and failed. A good attorney can challenge the results of your blood, breath, or urine test, casting doubt by pointing out mistakes in device maintenance or evidence handling. If you take the test, there's still a chance that you could save your license and get your case dismissed or your charges reduced. If you refuse the test, you're going to lose your license no matter what.
What If I Take & Fail a Chemical Test?
Let’s say you did drink some alcohol or take some type of drug (whether legal or illegal) and you’re pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You’re trying to decide whether you should take a chemical test. If you don’t take one, you know your license will be suspended for one year. But what if you do take one? If you take a chemical test in the form of a blood, breath, or urine test and either there is alcohol in your system or you test positive for a drug, you're subject to be charged with a DUI offense.
The consequences of a first-time DUI include:
- A maximum fine of $1,000 for a blood alcohol level below .15%
- Impoundment of vehicle for 10 days
- Not more than nine months in jail
- 180 days to one-year driver license revocation (without bodily injury)
If you’ve been convicted of DUI and you want to get your driver license reinstated to drive to work, you will need to complete DUI School and request a DHSMV hearing for a hardship reinstatement. If your BAL was .15% or higher, you will be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device for a hardship reinstatement.
Refusing Field Sobriety Tests vs. Chemical DUI Tests
A driver must submit to a blood or urine test in order to accurately measure blood alcohol content (BAC) or to test for the presence of drugs. Regardless of the test, drivers are required to take any DUI tests requested by law enforcement. So, if you're arrested and refuse to take both a blood and breath test, you could face a host of penalties if you don't comply.
Under Florida law, all drivers assume responsibility for submitting to tests for alcohol and controlled substances. According to §316.1932(a) of the Florida Statutes, should a subject refuse to submit to an alcohol test, they will face criminal penalties—including license suspension. If there are prior refusals on their record, refusal could be charged as a misdemeanor.
In Florida, if you refuse to perform a field sobriety test, you won't face any criminal penalties, but an officer is probably going to suspect you that much more. If you refuse a chemical DUI test, however, there will certainly be serious civil, possibly criminal penalties.
What happens if you refuse a blood, breath, or urine test?
- The first time, this will mean one year with a suspended driver's license
- Any subsequent refusals would result in 18 months' license suspension and in a jail sentence
Sometimes, an officer mistakenly records that a driver refused a test when, in reality, the driver took the test. For instance, if a driver's breath sample is too small for the test equipment to read, an officer might put down that the test was refused.
You Can Refuse a Field Sobriety Test!
In Florida, if you refuse to perform a field sobriety test, you won't face any criminal penalties, but an officer is probably going to suspect you that much more. That said, exercising your right to refuse is not probable cause that you committed a crime. Being under suspicion is not the same as being under arrest, so feel free to refuse the field sobriety test. However, keep in mind that the officer may use other evidence to arrest you; your breath, your demeanor, or your speech may all provide the officer with the probable cause they require to arrest you.
If you need to defend your driver's license in a DHSMV hearing, you have at most 10 days to call a lawyer to fight for your license. If you need to fight a DUI charge, you can find the powerful, proven defense you need from a Tampa DUI lawyer at Thomas & Paulk, P.A.