Most states in the Union have some sort of implied consent law on their books. Typically, implied consent laws require a driver suspected of DUI to submit to a alcohol level test by giving a breath or blood sample to law enforcement. When the suspected drunk driver refuses, there is some sort of civil penalty such as a fine or loss of license. But a Florida legislator is proposing tougher laws to penalize those who refuse to take a breathalyzer or blood test.
Like other states, Florida too has an implied consent law. Currently, if a driver suspected of DUI refuses to take a breathalyzer or blood test, then that driver will likely lose his or her license for a year or less. This is a civil penalty that violates the agreement between a driver and the state of Florida. Under that agreement, each of us agrees to submit to an alcohol level test when we are suspected of DUI. In exchange for this implied consent, the state grants us the right to drive a car on the state’s roads.
What the Law Would Do; Potential Legal Challenges
The newly proposed Florida DUI law would change the current implied consent law from breach of a civil agreement to a violation of criminal law. Under the terms of the proposed DUI bill, a first time refusal to take a breathalyzer would result in a fine of $500 to a $1,000, six months probation, and loss of driver’s license points.
Refuse a second time or more and that the penalties get even more severe. Refusal to take a test a second time would result in a misdemeanor, a fine of up to $1,000, and a year in jail. All of these penalties would be mandatory, making it impossible for a judge to suspend or withhold them.
If passed, these new DUI laws would almost certainly face a legal challenge from people who refuse to take alcohol level tests. Any legal challenge would most likely be based on the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which grants each of us the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by the police without a judge issued warrant. Any challenge to this proposed law would likely argue that forcing someone to allow the police to search them without a warrant, or face criminal consequences, violates the Fourth Amendment.
Helping Victims of Drunk Driving Accidents
Given the number of DUI related accidents and injuries that happen in the Panama City area every year, any effort to stop drunk driving should be welcome. But often times efforts to strengthen DUI laws run afoul of constitutional provisions.
Regardless of whether this law is passed and implemented, or whether it faces a legal challenge, victims of DUI related accidents are currently protected by Florida law. If you have been injured in an accident with someone driving drunk, the law requires the drunk driver to pay for the damages she incurs. That means that the driver must pay for pain and suffering, hospital, lost time at work, and more. At The Pittman Firm we represent victims of DUI related accidents. If you have been in a DUI related accident in the Panama City area, contact us.