Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer in Florida?

Receiving a DUI is a scary experience that can have consequences long after you’re arrested. You may have questions regarding your rights as a driver in Florida and whether you can refuse a breathalyzer test if you’re arrested.

The short answer is yes— you can refuse— but doing so comes with penalties that may outweigh any potential benefits.

IMPORTANT: If you have been charged with a DUI, contact our DUI lawyers in Tampa, FL to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. (813) 258-4800.

When Can Police Request a Breathalyzer?

Law enforcement can request a breath test if they suspect you are driving under the influence. They need probable cause to make that request and will look for signs of impairment such as glassy eyes, lack of coordination, slurred speech, or reckless driving.

If you fail a roadside sobriety test, you may be asked to take a breath test.

Florida’s Implied Consent Laws

Florida Statute 316.1932 outlines the state’s implied consent laws. Implied consent means that holding a Florida driver’s license allows you to take an approved chemical or physical test if you are arrested. This includes a breathalyzer to measure your blood alcohol content. However, you still can’t be forced to blow. You will face the consequences for refusing, but you have the right to decline the test if you choose.

A chemical test administered after an arrest could also be performed by analyzing a blood or urine sample.

What about Field Sobriety Tests?

A field sobriety test is another way an officer assesses someone’s level of impairment if they suspect intoxication. You may be asked to follow a light with your eyes, walk and turn in a straight line, or stand on one leg. However, Florida’s implied consent laws do not cover field sobriety tests; you can refuse without penalty.

What Happens if You Refuse?

Though you can refuse a breath test, be aware of the consequences of doing so. If you refuse a breathalyzer, you will be subject to a mandatory license suspension of one year and receive a fine of $500.

A second offense or third refusal offense is a first-degree misdemeanor and will result in an 18-month license suspension and possible jail time. You’ll have to pay license reinstatement fees to get your license back if it’s suspended.

Appealing a DUI Refusal or License Suspension

You can request a hearing before a judge if you lose your license for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer or other chemical test. You must file to appeal within 30 days of your arrest. Your suspension will be upheld if you wait too long to file.

Should You Ever Refuse a Breathalyzer?

In most situations, it is not advisable to refuse a breath test since the consequences could be more severe than turning over evidence of your impairment. But if you refuse and later choose to appeal, you can justify your refusal for reasons such as:

  • Medical Issues: Some people may have anxiety or breathing problems, making taking the test difficult. In these scenarios, a law enforcement officer may document a refusal.
  • Language Barriers: You may have struggled to understand the officer’s instructions, leading the law enforcement officer to document a refusal.

With the help of a Tampa DUI lawyer, you may be able to successfully appeal the refusal or suspension if you can show that the arresting officer lacked probable cause or violated your rights, such as not being read your Miranda rights. You may also be able to challenge the test results if it was administered improperly or the equipment wasn’t correctly calibrated.

Proposed Law Could Increase Penalties for Refusal

The consequences of refusing a breathalyzer might seem steep now, but a new bill introduced in early 2023 seeks to up the penalties further. HB 197 proposes requiring first-time offenders to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle. Ignition interlock devices require drivers to blow into a handheld device and prove they haven’t consumed alcohol before the vehicle starts.

The bill is still under consideration but aims to further deter drunk driving in Florida.

Call a Florida DUI Attorney for Help Today

You may have refused a breathalyzer in the heat of the moment, regretted it, or felt it was the right choice for the circumstances. No matter what happens, know that you have options to fight the charges against you and get your license back if it’s suspended.

A Tampa criminal lawyer may get your charges reduced or dismissed altogether. Contact Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A., to discuss your options and make the right choice for your case. Call 813-258-4800 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation.