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Are there penalties for a breath test refusal in Florida?

If you are stopped by police in Hillsborough County and suspected of driving while intoxicated, you will usually be asked to submit to a breath test to measure your blood alcohol content level. Refusing to submit to testing of your breath, blood or urine may subject you to a second criminal charge in addition to the drunk driving charges for which you were originally arrested.

Florida has an implied consent law that imposes upon all licensed drivers the obligation to submit to chemical testing to determine their BAC level. A first refusal will result in a license suspension for 12 months. If you have a breath test refusal on your record, a second refusal carries with it a license suspension of 18 months, but it also can result a misdemeanor charge for a second refusal. Keep in mind that all of this is in addition to the consequences associated with the drunk driving charges. 

Before you can be subjected to the penalties of refusing to take a BAC level test, your arrest must be a lawful one. In other words, the police officer must have probable cause to believe that you were operating under the influence. Probable cause could be established by the officer:

  • Seeing you driving erratically
  • Smelling alcohol on your breath
  • Noticing that your eyes were bloodshot
  • Observing you being unsteady on your feet
  • Noticing you slurring as you speak

If the arrest is eventually proven to be unlawful, then a refusal to take a breath test will not remain on your record.

There are other defenses, such as statutory warnings that an officer must give you about the consequences of not taking a breathalyzer test, which might help you to avoid the consequences of a breath test refusal. This posting is only an overview of this topic, so it is not offered as or intended to be relied upon as legal advice that should only be obtained from an attorney.

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