You may not have known it when you got in the car, but all Florida drivers provide the state with consent to administer lawful blood and urine tests to determine blood alcohol content (BAC). You gave the police your implied consent to administer BAC tests just by getting behind the wheel. However, your consent is limited by law. Here, experienced Fort Lauderdale drunk driving defense lawyer Robert David Malove explains what you've agreed to, what happens if you refuse a BAC test, and what some of your defenses may be if you believe your BAC test results are inadmissible in court.
Implied Consent: What You Agree to When You Drive in Florida
According to Florida Statute Section 316.1932, if you're driving a car in the state, you automatically agree to take a chemical or physical test to check for alcohol or other substances in your system if you are lawfully arrested for a crime involving drunk driving or being under the influence of drugs.
For alcohol tests, a police officer can ask you to blow into a device that checks your breath. The officer may only administer a breathalyzer test if the officer has probable cause to believe that you are under the influence of alcohol.
For drug tests, the law allows the police to request a urine sample if they believe you were driving under the influence of drugs. As with a breathalyzer test, the officer can only conduct a urine test incidental to an arrest if the officer has probable cause to believe that you were under the influence of a controlled substance. Urine tests may be run at any facility equipped to administer these tests.
Florida law only allows police to compel a blood test if one of the following three things is true:
- A breath or urine test is impractical or impossible
- There is probable cause to believe your DUI caused death or serious injury
- You freely and voluntarily consented to a blood test
Otherwise, a blood test should not be used.
What Happens If You Refuse a Blood Alcohol Content Test
You could face significant penalties for refusing a lawful blood or urine test.
Your first refusal to submit to a breath, urine, or blood test, as required by law, can result in a driver's license suspension of one year. Subsequent refusals can result in 18-month license suspensions.
Jail Time and Fines
A second refusal to submit to an alcohol or drunk test, as required by Florida's implied consent law, can result in Class 1 misdemeanor charges. The potential legal consequences for a Class 1 misdemeanor include up to one year in jail or 12 months of probation and a fine of up to $1,000.
Evidence in a Criminal DUI Case
In court, your refusal to take these tests can be used as evidence against you in a criminal drunk driving or drugged driving case.
Implied Consent Defenses
You provided implied consent to lawfully administered breath, urine, and blood tests if you are arrested for drunk or drugged driving. However, you did not provide unlimited consent for the police to conduct tests any way they want.
If you refused a test and the state claims that you violated Florida's Implied Consent Law, you may have valid defenses that could help you avoid the harsh penalties described above. Specifically, your DUI defense lawyer should consider:
- Whether the police had probable cause to stop you for drunk driving and request testing
- If you really refused the test
- Whether the police provided you with an implied consent warning
- Whether you were threatened or coerced
- For blood test cases, whether a breath or urine test was possible and whether the police had probable cause to believe you caused an accident resulting in death or injury
Of course, implied consent is just one piece of your drunk driving defense case. You may also face significant DUI penalties if you are convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Florida.