DUI test refusal bill in Florida legislature

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The Florida Supreme Court and the Florida State Legislature are both involved in determining the actions that can be taken when drivers refuse DUI testing.

Drivers in Florida know that the state's laws on drunk driving are tough. If some lawmakers have their way, those laws could get even tougher. As the Sun Sentinel reports, a bill has been introduced in the Florida State Legislature to strengthen the penalties for any drivers who refuse to submit to testing if they are suspected of impaired driving. CBS Miami confirms that this would relate to refusals of urine, blood, or breath testing.

If this law passes, motorists could be given a six-month probation sentence, four points on their licenses and be forced to pay fines up to $1,000 for a first test refusal. If they refuse a second or subsequent test, they could spend up to a year in prison and be mandated to use an ignition interlock device for a year. In addition, the bill stipulates that these penalties cannot be changed or reduced by a judge.

Under current law in Florida, any driver who does not agree to take DUI testing may lose the right to drive for one year.

State Supreme Court case tackles same issue

While the legislature will be reviewing a bill to enact stricter penalties for refusing to take a drunk or drugged driving test, the State Supreme Court will be hearing a case on the same topic, yet with a twist. The case essentially questions the constitutionality of punishing people for test refusals without first obtaining warrants. It is asserted that doing so violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The opposition indicates that investigations for drunk driving are essentially outside the scope of this amendment.

U.S. Supreme Court also weighing in

The New York Times notes that three cases in other parts of the country have been consolidated into one argument that will now be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. All three cases hinge on whether or not it is lawful to punish drivers for refusing to submit to DUI testing.

In Minnesota, where one of the cases originated, drivers who refuse tests can face criminal charges. If found guilty, they may be put in prison for up to seven years even if they are never convicted of DUI charges.

In North Dakota, where the other two cases originated, drivers who refuse tests can face penalties just like those who are actually convicted of DUI charges.

Again, it is the Fourth Amendment that is being referred to in these cases as it is designed to prevent unreasonable seizure or search. By criminalizing test refusals, states have been able to get around a previous decision requiring a warrant in order to take drivers' blood samples.

Changing laws make legal representation even more important

When facing a drunk driving charge or test refusal, drivers in Florida should discuss their situations with an attorney. With laws in flux, getting the most up-to-date information may make a big difference in the end.