Florida DUI: Understanding the repercussions of refusing a breath test

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To some, there's a misconception that drivers in the state of Florida can simply refuse to take a breath test if they get pulled over for suspected drunk driving-and thereby get them off the hook for a DUI.

This to some extent is true. Drivers can refuse to submit to a breath, blood or urine test. However, it's important to understand that drivers who do refuse will face strict repercussions as a result. Mainly because of the "implied consent" they have already given.

Understanding Implied Consent in Florida

In the state of Florida, in exchange for a driver's license, individuals must also agree to give a breath, blood or urine test if he or she is ever pulled over for suspected DUI. Essentially, they give "implied consent" for this once they sign on the dotted line and receive their license. And, along with this, the law outlines specific repercussions for those who refuse to abide by the "implied consent" law.

However, many drivers likely aren't reading this fine print when they sign the documentation at the DMV. (Particularly those who are 16 years of age and too excited, overwhelmed and distracted about getting their license for the first time.)

But there are consequences for individuals who get pulled over and refuse to cooperate with authorities.

Repercussions of a refusal

For those who refuse for the first time, they will automatically lose their license for 1 year. For subsequent refusals, drivers will lose their license for 18 months and most likely serve jail time.

The penalties for refusal aren't as strict as penalties for a DUI conviction. However, it's vital that drivers understand that they aren't off the hook for DUI charges because they opted to refuse the breath, blood or urine test.

In the state of Florida, authorities do not necessarily need a test that shows drivers had a BAC over.08 (for those under 21 years of age). Prosecutors can still convict drivers without this evidence. In fact, in some instances, evidence of the refusal admitted in court helps to prove guilt. Prosecutors often argue that the refusal by itself is proof that the driver was intoxicated because otherwise he or she would've submitted to the test.

Advice about refusing a breath test

The bottom line is that even if drivers pulled over for suspected DUI believe the officer was in the wrong or acted illegally, cooperating first and then obtaining legal counsel is the best course of action to mitigate any potential damage down the line.