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Fort Myers DUI/DWI Law Blog

What Happens When You Refuse a Breathalyzer in Florida

As a Florida driver, you do have the right to refuse a breathalyzer if requested by law enforcement. However, you should be aware that doing so can carry some very harsh penalties, even if you aren’t actually driving under the influence. The Sun-Sentinel provides the following information on the consequences of refusing testing, as well as how drunk driving charges are handled in general.

Understanding Implied Consent Laws

DUI charges await Orange Park man found in parking lot

It may be easy to want to vilify people in Fort Myers when they find themselves subject to criminal scrutiny. Determinations may be made about them based off more than just their alleged actions, such as who they are, the jobs they hold or their connection to people in the community. The danger that comes with jumping to conclusions in these cases may be two-fold: First, it may limit their chances of being fairly judged in both legal proceedings and the court of public opinion. Second, it may cause many to overlook the charges leveled against to determine if they are indeed warranted. 

It may be difficult for many to overlook the profession of an Orange Park man (dean of students at a local middle school) after it was reported that he was recently arrested for (among other things) driving under the influence. A local deputy arrested the man after he was found in his car in a state the deputy took to be intoxicated. He claimed the man asleep with his pants lowered in the front seat of his car. After being awoken, be began to act strangely, which ultimately led to his arrest. 

What are field sobriety tests for?

Most people in Florida are likely aware that if a person is stopped by a police officer and suspected of driving after drinking alcohol, that person may be asked to perform certain tasks right at the place where they were stopped. If you ever find yourself in this position, it will be important for you to know just what these tasks or tests can show and how they may influence any case against you.

In part because these tests are commonly referred to as field sobriety tests, you might initially believe that they are used to determine whether or not you are sober or intoxicated. However, as explained by FieldSobrietyTests.org, that is not actually what they are used for. In fact, they are not able to identify whether or not a person is drunk or impaired. Instead, these battery of tests are used by law enforcement officers to show that you might be drunk or impaired.

Is a BUI the same as a DUI?

If you are a summer boating fan, whether you are the captain or strictly a passenger, you should know about the similarities and differences between BUIs and DUIs in Florida. Florida boaters face the same consequences as vehicle drivers on land for boating under the influence and must meet the same conditions—a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher—to be charged with BUI. A major difference between a BUI and DUI, however, is the application of the law to others in the boat as well as the operator.

According to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, anyone on a boat can be an operator, and unlike a vehicle, a boat can have more than one operator at the same time. The job of a navigator, look-out, master or helmsman may be handled by one person or several, and all are operators.

Can underage drinking offenses be expunged?

Your kids may clearly understand that the legal drinking age in Florida in 21. That does not necessarily mean, however, that they will refuse to experiment with alcohol or have a drink while at a party in Fort Myers. If one of your kids face legal consequences for doing so, there may be nothing that can be done in the moment other than to accept responsibility for it and move on. Should such a decision, however, haunt him or her forever? 

Haunting is, of course, a relative term. He or she may not necessarily regret the choice to drink before turning 21; what he or she will regret is having an arrest on his or her record. Such a mark can impede him or her from getting into the college of his or her choice, landing a job, or even qualifying for housing. Is there a way, then, to get an arrest removed from your kid's record? 

Factors that raise misdemeanor DUI to a felony

Florida and all other states, plus the District of Columbia, have enacted laws that make driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol a crime. According to FindLaw, a standard DUI is a misdemeanor that typically carries a jail sentence at an area county facility. Misdemeanors are usually divided into three degrees, depending on their seriousness. Less serious than a misdemeanor is an Infraction, which does not include jail time. A felony is more serious than a misdemeanor and it carries stiffer penalties, which typically involves a fine and prison sentence.

So when does a standard DUI become a felony charge instead? FindLaw notes that there are several conditions that can elevate a misdemeanor.

  • Bodily harm: States and sometimes prosecutors may choose to increase DUI charges to a felony in cases where another person is hurt.
  • Children involved: Many states have statutes that attach enhanced penalties if children are riding in a vehicle whose driver is charged with DUI.
  • Elevated BAC level: Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher are considered intoxicated and can be charged with DUI. If a driver has a BAC of .15 or more, Florida may raise the charge to a felony.
  • Prior convictions: Felony DUI may also be charged when a driver has previous convictions for DUI offenses within a specific period of time.
  • License restrictions: If a driver is charged with DUI while using a license that has been suspended, restricted or revoked, states may raise the offense to a felony.

DUI troubles find 3 Brevard County corrections officers

The are plenty of stories out there detailing the arrests of people in Fort Myers on drunk driving charges. One might think that those tales alone (along with the details of the potential criminal penalties those accused of these offenses may face) would be sufficient to deter anyone from even the thought of driving after drinking alcohol. Yet DUI arrests continue to occur. This fact may serve to illustrate just how easily one might allow a supposed momentary lapse in judgment to prompt him or her to engage in activity that, at any other time (and in any other setting), he or she would not. 

This certainly might seem to be the case with three Brevard County corrections officers who were all recently arrested and suspended from their jobs following DUI arrests. All three officers ended up being in accidents that resulted in property damage (one reportedly also sustained injuries that required hospitalization). Two of the officers also refused to submit to blood-alcohol testing (no indication was given whether they refused breathalyzer tests or actual chemical screenings). The other had a BAC measurement of .235, which not only was three times the legal limit, but also in the range where alcohol poisoning is a possibility. 

What happens when you refuse a breath test in florida?

As much as drunk driving checkpoints and other safety measures are intended to protect a community, they seem to evoke an equal amount of fear into Florida's drivers. More so, those who have only had a minimum amount of alcohol worry that a breathalyzer test could fall just slightly over the legal drinking limit, throwing them into a vicious cycle of paperwork, court fees and revoked licenses. Although these tests can take dangerous drivers off the road, they can also place many limitations on the state's residents.

Those who express frustration over tight drinking laws are not alone. Last June, ABC News reported that Florida was number one in the nation when it came to drivers refusing breathalyzer tests. Drawing from statistics provided by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, ABC goes on to share that almost 40 percent of drivers who are pulled over with suspicions of drunk driving refuse to take the breath test. Experts highlighted in the article stated that drunk driving was especially widespread in the Tampa Bay area. Lawmakers had proposed a bill in 2016 that would have strengthened penalties for refusing a breathalyzer test, but to no avail.

How does a suspended license impact your life?

In Florida, drivers who are accused of DUI-related crimes can face the very real possibility of having their license suspended. In some extreme cases, it may even be revoked. Steven Wetter, Attorney at Law, will help you protect your ability to drive when it's being threatened.

But it's more than just your ability to drive that's at risk here. Every area of your life can be impacted by a suspended or revoked license. For example, have you considered your work commute? If you live far away from your job, it might be nearly impossible to get there via public transportation instead of car. Even if it is possible, you could be looking at adding hours on to your daily commuting time.

Putting life back together after a license suspension

The reason may have been insignificant, but the effects of a suspended license could present challenges to one's daily routine. No matter what type of drunk driving charge occurred, losing a license can threaten one's career and even quality of life. Floridians in these tricky situations may benefit from learning more about the state's administrative suspension laws and the ways they can manage the problem as best as possible.

Whether a driver faces serious consequences after an offense or simply wants to expand knowledge on state laws, it can prove advantageous to learn what offenses, exactly, lead to license suspension. The Sun Sentinel shared in February that a plethora of offenses fit under the umbrella of license revocation, including:

  • Failure to pay child support
  • Skipping traffic school
  • Missing a court date
  • Alcohol possession (for those under 18)

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