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Repeated breath test refusal: A criminal offense in Florida

Learning about implied consent laws may come as a surprise to some readers. After all, giving up breath evidence could be viewed as a search. Generally speaking, police cannot conduct searches and seizures without providing a warrant or receiving expressed consent. Still, police have the right to demand drivers to take breath test when they are suspected of drunk driving or face a variety of penalties.

As we've previously covered, first-time breath test refusal generally results in a one-year license suspension. Subsequent implied consent violations result in an 18-month suspension. Interestingly enough, repeat breath test offenses can also result in misdemeanor charges.

In other words, according to Florida statute, breath test refusal is a criminal act. People may feel entirely trapped into submitting to a breath test or building a criminal record.

The issue of Florida's criminalization of breath test refusals has not gone unnoticed, however. Recently, North Dakota's implied consent laws were challenged. Two men questioned the validity of a change to state law that criminalizes breath test refusal. In affirming the state's position, the North Dakota court pointed out that other states, including Florida, take a similar stance.

Law enforcement officials have the latitude to add implied consent penalties to the outcome of any related driving under the influence charges. This could create an especially difficult situation for defendants.

Just as drunk driving charges are nothing to brush aside, implied consent violations should also be taken very seriously. Law enforcement will be eager to pursue charges, and defendants may want to do what's necessary to offer a strong case on their behalf.

Source: Florida Legislature, F.S.A. § 316.1932, accessed July 23, 2014

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