Should You Consent to a Breathalyzer Test When Pulled Over in Tampa FL

Should You Consent to a Breathalyzer Test When Pulled Over in Tampa FL

What Happens if You Refuse a Breathalyzer in Florida?

Getting pulled over by the police on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) can be a stressful and scary experience. If the officer asks you to take a breathalyzer test, you may be wondering – do I have to consent? What happens if I refuse? As a criminal defense law firm handling many DUI cases in the Tampa area, we at CDB Injury Law want to provide helpful information on this important topic.

In the state of Florida, if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence, then you are deemed to have consented to taking an approved chemical test of your breath, blood or urine. This is known as the “implied consent” law.

Penalties for Breathalyzer Refusal in Florida

While you can refuse to submit to testing, there are penalties under the implied consent law if you do. The first time you refuse, your driver’s license will be suspended for 1 year. A second or subsequent refusal is a misdemeanor offense and your license will be suspended for 18 months. These administrative penalties are separate from any criminal charges you may face for DUI.

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), 6,127 drivers refused a breath test in 2020 after being pulled over for suspected impaired driving. That represented about 22% of all DUI arrests statewide. In Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, the refusal rate was even higher at 31%.

Police Procedures for DUI Stops and Breathalyzer Tests

When an officer pulls you over on suspicion of drunk driving, they will look for signs of impairment like slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or the odor of alcohol. They may ask you to perform standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) like the walk-and-turn or one-leg stand.

Based on their observations, if the officer has probable cause to arrest you for DUI, they will read Florida’s implied consent warning which states that your license will be suspended if you refuse to take a breath, blood or urine test. You do not have the right to consult an attorney before deciding whether to submit to testing.

If you agree to take a breathalyzer, the officer will use an approved device like the Intoxilyzer 8000. For the results to be admissible in court, they must follow proper procedures like observing you for 20 minutes prior to testing and administering two tests within 15 minutes of each other. A blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher is considered legally impaired.

Should You Refuse the Breathalyzer?

This is a personal decision with no easy answer. On one hand, if you take the test and fail, the results can be used as strong evidence against you in court. Prosecutors may be less willing to reduce or dismiss DUI charges when they have proof that your BAC was over the legal limit.

On the other hand, if you refuse testing, you face an automatic administrative license suspension regardless of the outcome of your DUI case. The officer can also testify about your refusal in court, and jurors may view it as consciousness of guilt. You could still be convicted of DUI based on the officer’s observations and other evidence.

Some criminal defense attorneys advise not taking the breathalyzer if you believe you will fail, especially for a first offense. With no test results, it may improve your chances of getting the DUI charge reduced to reckless driving or dismissed based on lack of evidence. However, you must be willing to accept the administrative suspension for refusing.

Ultimately, the best course of action depends on the specific facts of your case. If you are pulled over for DUI in the Tampa area, politely decline to answer questions and request to speak to a lawyer. An experienced DUI defense attorney can review the evidence, challenge any legal or factual weaknesses, and advise you of your options.

Defenses to DUI Breathalyzer Evidence

If you do take a breathalyzer test and are subsequently charged with DUI, there may be ways for your lawyer to get the BAC results suppressed or excluded from evidence. Some potential defenses include:

  • The officer did not have probable cause to make the traffic stop
  • The officer did not properly advise you of the implied consent warning
  • The breathalyzer device was not properly maintained or calibrated
  • The officer did not observe you for at least 20 minutes before testing
  • The officer did not administer two valid samples within 15 minutes
  • You have a medical condition like GERD or diabetes that caused a falsely high BAC reading
  • Rising blood alcohol from recently consumed drinks resulted in a higher BAC than when driving

A good DUI lawyer will carefully examine the facts of your case to identify any possible defenses or mitigating factors. In some cases, they may be able to negotiate with prosecutors to reduce the DUI charge to a lesser offense like reckless driving, or argue for a lenient sentence like probation instead of jail time.

Hire an Experienced Tampa DUI Defense Lawyer

Being arrested for DUI in Tampa is a serious matter with potentially severe consequences. If you are facing drunk driving charges, it is crucial to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney who has experience handling these types of cases.

At CDB Injury Law, our team of knowledgeable DUI lawyers is dedicated to protecting the rights of individuals arrested for driving under the influence in Tampa and throughout Hillsborough County. We can help you understand your legal options, challenge any unlawfully obtained evidence, and build the strongest possible defense based on the facts of your case.

Don’t face DUI charges alone. Contact our Tampa law office today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our experienced DUI defense attorneys. We are here to listen to your side of the story and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.


Know more about our Tampa DUI Attorneys.

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