If you ever get pulled over by a police officer who asks if you have been drinking, be aware that the officer suspects you of drinking and driving. They pulled you over to try to gather enough evidence against you to arrest you on a DUI charge. No matter what they say, they are not asking you to take a DUI breath test to help you clear your name. The test’s only purpose is to help the officer reach probable cause for an arrest.
So, do you have to submit to a roadside breath test in Ft. Myers? Not really. But declining the test has consequences. And those consequences could soon become more serious in Florida.
Not a crime, but still punishable
It is not a crime to refuse to take the roadside breath test. But Florida has an implied consent law that states anyone who drives on the state’s highways or roads, by implication, agrees to take the test when a police officer demands it. If you decline, the court will automatically suspend your driver’s license. A first offense leads to a 12-month suspension, and subsequent refusals trigger an 18-month suspension and possible jail time.
Also, if you are later convicted of drinking and driving, the fact that you declined the roadside breath test disqualifies you from Florida’s Diversion Program for DUI. This could mean you would face a harsher sentence.
Ignition interlocks too?
These punishments are not enough for some lawmakers. A bill recently introduced in the State House would also require ignition interlock devices for a first refusal. These devices attach to the vehicle’s ignition and require the driver to blow alcohol-free breath into them before the engine can start. The bill would require someone who refused the test to pay to have the device installed in the vehicle they “routinely” use and keep it there for 12 months, presumably after their license is returned to them. It does not appear that the driver would have to be convicted of DUI to be forced to use the ignition interlock.
Before you can confront a criminal charge like DUI, you need to know the relevant law and your rights. An experienced defense attorney can break down these issues into plain language so that you can decide on the best strategy for your case.