In Florida, a person can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in two ways. First, they can be accused of operating a vehicle while affected by alcohol and/or a chemical or controlled substance. Second, they can be accused of operating a vehicle when they had a blood or breath alcohol level of 0.08 or more.
To attempt to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver is guilty, the prosecutor must provide support for their arguments. One significant piece of evidence they can produce in these types of cases is the result of a chemical test. The analyses may show that there was a chemical or controlled substance in the defendant's system or that the defendant had a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above the legal limit.
Anyone accused of a DUI might think that, since the prosecutor relies partially on chemical test results to build their case, refusing to submit a blood, breath, or urine sample may help them avoid severe penalties. However, that's not necessarily the case. First, if the driver declines to provide a chemical test, the prosecutor can present other evidence to prove guilt. Second, refusing a chemical test violates the law, and doing such can lead to various sanctions.
Florida's Implied Consent Law
Participating in a DUI chemical test is required under Florida's implied consent law (Florida Statutes § 316.1932). Essentially, the law provides that if a person is pulled over for driving under the influence, they are deemed to have given their consent to be subject to a blood, breath, or urine test.
Note that the law says "deemed" to have given consent. The term implies that the individual need not give explicit permission to have a sample of their blood, breath, or urine taken. Rather, the state assumes that they have consented because they were arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.
Florida's implied consent law applies to:
- A person who was given the privilege to have a Florida driver's license, and
- Was lawfully arrested for driving under the influence.
For a DUI arrest to be considered lawful, the arresting officer must have had reasonable cause to believe that the driver was operating a vehicle while their normal faculties were affected by drugs and/or alcohol.
Penalties for an Implied Consent Violation
As part of the DUI chemical test process, the officer will direct the driver to submit a blood, breath, or urine sample. The test must be administered according to methods approved by the Department of Law Enforcement and conducted by authorized personnel.
Although Florida drivers have given their implicit consent to submit to one or more of the chemical tests, technically, they can refuse them, which is unlawful. During the process, the arresting officer must inform them of the consequences of a refusal.
The penalties for refusing a DUI chemical test include the following:
- First violation:
- 1-year driver's license suspension
- Second or subsequent violation:
- 18-month driver's license suspension
- First-degree misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines
Additionally, the refusal is admissible as evidence in the criminal case.
Challenging Chemical Test Results
A chemical test might indicate that the driver either had an elevated BAC level or the presence of a chemical or controlled substance in their system. However, a positive result does not necessarily mean that the individual is guilty of the alleged DUI offense.
Various factors can lead to a false positive, including:
- Residual mouth alcohol
- Improper maintenance of testing equipment
- Improper handling of the specimen
Thus, even if a driver agrees to participate in the test, there may be ways to challenge the results.
If you were accused of DUI in Miami, reach out to Law Office of Armando J. Hernandez, P.A. today. We will review your case to determine your legal options.
Schedule a free consultation by calling us at (305) 400-0074 or contacting us online today.