One of the most important rights afforded to Americans by the constitution is the protection against illegal searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. In many cases, police must obtain a warrant before conducting a search.
Understanding this important legal protection, many people might think that police shouldn’t be able to conduct a roadside breath test without first obtaining a warrant. After all, police are collecting evidence through this process. However, Florida’s implied consent laws permit police to conduct a roadside breath test for blood alcohol concentration without a warrant.
According to Florida statute, people automatically consent to taking a breath test by driving a motor vehicle within the state’s borders. As a result of this law, breath test refusal can amount to a misdemeanor charge. If a person is convicted of this charge, he or she automatically loses driving privileges for one year. Any subsequent refusal violations result in an 18 month license suspension.
One critical thing to note is that police officer conducting a traffic stop must notify drivers of the consequence for refusing a breath test. Failure to provide this warning before requesting a test could invalidate charges for refusal.
Returning to the question at hand: Can Florida drivers turn down an officer’s request to take a breath test? Put simply, a person can refuse a breath test, but legal consequences are likely to follow.
Breath test refusal penalties can be added to any other charges that result from a drunk driving arrest. As such, it’s critical to understand what legal options when facing legal penalties under these difficult circumstances.
Source: WestLaw, F.S.A. § 316.1932