DUI Charges: What Happens If You Refuse a Breath Test in Florida?

In Florida, drivers suspected of intoxicated driving have a legal duty to submit to a breath test. Should you violate this obligation, you could lose your license. Indeed, a DUI refusal can lead to immediate penalties—even if you are not actually intoxicated. In this article, our Tampa DUI defense attorney explains the most important things you need to know about Florida law and breathalyzer refusals.

Implied Consent in Florida: Breathalyzer Tests

As a starting point, all drivers should know that Florida has an implied consent law on its books (Florida Statutes § 316.1939). Any person who operates a motor vehicle in the state has, by law, already consented to submit to a breathalyzer test if they are arrested for drunk driving. If you refuse to submit to the test, you will be subject to an immediate license suspension. 

The Consequences of a DUI Breath Test Refusal in Florida

Under Florida law, any driver who refuses to submit to a DUI breath test for the first time will have their license suspended for a period of 12 months. For any subsequent DUI refusals, the license suspension will be for 18 months. Further, a second-time refusal could result in a driver facing misdemeanor criminal charges on those grounds. 

To be clear, these are administrative penalties—meaning you could still face additional criminal penalties beyond the refusal penalties. Refusing to take a breath test is not a surefire defense against being charged with a DUI. Indeed, even if you refuse to take a breath test, Florida prosecutors may still decide to bring criminal drunk driving charges. Other types of evidence may support a conviction. If you refused to take a breath test, call a Tampa, FL defense lawyer right away. An attorney will protect your rights. In some circumstances, you may still be able to save your license.  

Know Your Rights: Field Sobriety Tests are Not Mandatory

In Florida, motorists are not required to submit to a field sobriety test. The implied consent law only applies to state-approved breath tests and blood tests. Other types of field sobriety tests, including the one leg stand, the walk and turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus, are not mandatory. You can refuse to take these types of tests without facing administrative or criminal penalties.

Unfortunately, field sobriety tests are notoriously unreliable. As a general rule, it is not in your best interests to consent to any of the three field sobriety tests listed above. You are within your rights to refuse these types of subjective tests.  

Call Our Tampa, FL DUI Defense Lawyers Today

At Hanlon Law, our Florida criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience handling DUI cases, including DUI refusals. If you were arrested after refusing to consent to a breathalyzer test, we are here to help. To set up a strictly confidential initial consultation, please contact us today at 507-625-5000. With a law office in Tampa, we represent defendants throughout the region, including in Brandon, Riverview, Clearwater, Largo, and St. Petersburg.

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