Your Trusted Legal Advocates, Defending the People of Florida

Can you refuse a breathalyzer in Florida?

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2024 | DUI

People frequently become rather nervous during encounters with law enforcement. During a traffic stop, for example, a driver might go out of their way to be as respectful and helpful as possible. Yet, despite the best intentions of a motorist, a police officer may view them with suspicion.

When an officer does not already have reasonable grounds to cite or arrest a driver, they may start looking for signs of criminal violations, not just traffic infractions. A Florida police officer might ask someone, seemingly out of the blue, to perform a breath test to prove that they are not under the influence of alcohol. Can a driver refuse to perform that test, or do they risk consequences by doing so?

Timing is everything in breath test scenarios

Florida law treats driving like a privilege, not a right. State statutes impose a variety of restrictions on how people drive. There are even rules that limit certain rights people have in other situations, like the right to avoid self-incrimination. To that end, Florida has an implied consent law to make it easier for police officers to enforce driving under the influence (DUI) statutes.

If a police officer has the necessary probable cause to arrest someone on suspicion of a DUI infraction, they can request a breath test. If a driver refuses while under arrest, that violates the implied consent law. They could be at risk of secondary penalties, which typically entail a suspension of their driving privileges. That penalty is in addition to whatever consequences the courts may impose for a DUI charge.

However, if the driver is not under arrest and an officer does not claim to have grounds to arrest them, it is perfectly legal to decline a breath test. In fact, drivers can also refuse to perform field sobriety tests. Test refusal prior to arrest should not lead to someone’s arrest or put them at risk of additional penalties if they do face DUI charges.

Motorists often have a hard time knowing how to assert themselves during DUI enforcement efforts. Learning about one’s rights before a DUI traffic stop occurs can help people navigate what can be a very stressful situation. In doing so, drivers can potentially avoid scenarios in which they may face inappropriate arrest and prosecution. Yet, arrests may occur due to mistakes, misunderstandings or aggressive enforcement efforts regardless under certain circumstances. If that happens, seeking legal guidance immediately is wise.