You have the right to refuse a drug or alcohol test requested of you by a police officer — but that doesn’t mean you should.
Many Florida residents might not realize the serious implications they will face for refusing to take a test after an officer has pulled them over on suspicion of driving under the influence. Here’s what you need to know.
You have implied your consent to be tested
All 50 states in the U.S. enforce an implied consent law. This law states that those who choose to drive have also implied that they consent to take a chemical test at a law enforcement officer’s request. In Florida, you can be arrested for driving under the influence even if the car is parked if you are in the driver’s seat and possess the keys or are running the vehicle.
Officers must still have reason to believe that a person might be under the influence of a judgment-impairing substance in order to pull over a driver and request a test — unless the driver is at a sobriety checkpoint.
Sobriety checkpoints are designated areas used to check random drivers for driving under the influence. Sobriety checkpoints are legal in Florida and do not require reasonable suspicion for an officer to request a chemical test from a driver.
Those who are found unconscious may be tested because they have already implied consent.
Refusing a chemical test carries penalties
Officers should inform you that choosing to refuse the test will result in license suspension and other potential penalties sentenced in court. The amount of time that a license is suspended because of a refusal to take a chemical test depends on how many offenses you have had.
For the first offense, drivers will face a year’s license suspension for refusing a chemical test. The suspension period is bumped up to 18 months for subsequent offenses.
You could ask for a test
If you are arrested for a DUI that you do not believe you are guilty of, an officer must give you a breathalyzer test if you request one. However, it is important to know that enhanced penalties may result if you blow a score that reaches or exceeds a 0.15 percent BAC level.
For other drugs, law enforcement officers may use a blood, urine or saliva test. Any trace of an illegal or illegally obtained drug in a chemical test can result in DUI charges — even if the test cannot show how long ago the drug was taken.
You can avoid answering questions
While you have implied your consent to complete a chemical test, you do not need to answer questions asked by a law enforcement officer. You may tell an officer that you are unsure how to answer the questions you are being asked appropriately and would like to use the assistance of a lawyer to proceed. A lawyer can help ensure that you do not mistakenly incriminate yourself.
If you are facing penalties for refusing a test or driving under the influence, consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer for help. An attorney can help you devise a strategy that includes an evaluation on whether your arrest and chemical test were conducted properly.