Imagine: It’s a quiet night and you’re driving home from a bar after having a couple of drinks with a friend.
Suddenly you see red and blue lights flashing behind you. Out of nowhere, a police cruiser races up to your car, and you know the police are about to pull you over.
You try to stay calm. But you can’t remember how many drinks you had. Was it just one beer? Two? Or three?
Now you’re wondering what you’ll do if the officer asks you to take a breathalyzer test. Will you take your chances or refuse?
Then again, what happens if you refuse a breathalyzer?
Our experienced Orlando DUI defense lawyers will explain.
Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer If You’re Driving?
The short answer to this question is yes. However, don’t think that there won’t be consequences if you refuse a breathalyzer test.
Florida has a so-called “implied consent” law. This law states that all drivers in Florida implicitly agree to take a breathalyzer test whenever they drive a car.
Because of this law, refusing a breathalyzer test in Florida comes at a cost.
The first time you refuse a breathalyzer test, you’ll immediately have your driver’s license suspended for one year. This will happen regardless of whether you are convicted of DUI or any other criminal offense.
Refusing a breathalyzer test a second time counts as a misdemeanor under Florida law. This means that in addition to losing your driver’s license for 18 months, you could face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
However, police can ask you to take a breathalyzer test only if they have reasonable cause to believe that you were driving under the influence. In other words, police have to have some evidence that you’re breaking the law. Examples include swerving over the road or driving strangely, getting in an accident, or showing signs of alcohol intoxication.
If the police don’t have reasonable cause to give you a breathalyzer test, the law grants you protection from legal consequences. Yet it’s hard to fight the police if they claim that they had probable cause.
That’s just one reason why you should consult a DUI attorney if you are charged with DUI or with violating Florida’s implied consent law.
Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer If You’re Not Driving?
Generally, yes. A breathalyzer test is for intoxicated drivers, not passengers. Obviously, passengers cannot be guilty of a crime that only a driver can commit.
Furthermore, Florida’s implied consent law applies only to drivers. Because you’re not driving, you haven’t implicitly agreed to receive the breathalyzer test.
In most cases, the police probably won’t even ask you to take a breathalyzer test as the passenger.
Yet there are a few exceptions.
For example, let’s say you and a friend both go out for some drinks at a bar downtown. You have a few more drinks that he does, so you ask him to drive you home in your car. On the way back, the police pull you both over. Because you’re the owner of the car, the police might suspect that you were actually driving but switched seats with your friend.
Watch Out for Open Container Violations
Remember that you, as a passenger, can still face legal consequences even if you can’t be charged with DUI or with violating the implied consent law.
For example, police could also charge you with violating Florida’s open container law. Under this law, it is punishable for anyone who is “seated in or on a motor vehicle” to have an open container of an alcoholic drink.
If you’ve been charged with DUI or with violating Florida’s implied consent law, you’ll need a good attorney to help you stand up for your rights.
Why Should I Pick Your Florida Defense Firm?
Not all attorneys are the same. It’s important to get a lawyer who has experience with DUI cases and is familiar with that kind of law. It’s also important to get an attorney whom you can trust completely.
If you’re looking for an experienced DUI attorney who can provide you with passionate representation, then Orlando Defense is the firm for you. Whatever the circumstances of your case, our DUI lawyer has the experience and the skills to give you the best chance of success.