If one were to rank the 50 states on the severity of their respective drunk driving laws, there’s a very good chance that Florida would rank near the top. If you don’t believe it, consider that that the Sunshine State is only one of 12 states with a refusal law that calls for penalties outside of just license suspension.
Indeed, our state’s refusal law dictates that those motorists suspected of driving under the influence who refuse to submit to a blood, breath or urine test will see their license suspended for one year for a first refusal. However, those who refuse to submit to a test on a second or subsequent occasion will not only see their license suspended for 18 months, but also be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Interestingly enough, the Florida Supreme Court announced just last week that it will hear arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of our state’s draconian refusal to submit law.
The case in question concerns a motorist in Volusia County who was pulled over on suspicion of DUI back in October 2013 and subsequently refused to take a breath test after being asked by the arresting officer who did not — and was not required to — have a warrant. He was ultimately issued five traffic violations, including one for refusal to submit
The motorist ultimately pursued an appeal, arguing that the state’s refusal to submit law violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. Specifically, he argued that not requiring law enforcement officials to secure a warrant for an alcohol test is unconstitutional.
The Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal found these arguments unavailing and ruled that the refusal to submit law passes constitutional muster.
It will be interesting to see whether the state Supreme Court, which hears oral arguments in the case in September, will affirm this ruling or find that a warrant is indeed necessary when requesting an alcohol test.
It’s worth noting that the Supreme Court of the United States recently heard arguments in a case examining whether state laws making it a crime to refuse to take an alcohol test are constitutional. A decision is expected soon.
Stay tuned for updates on both of these cases …
If you or a loved one are facing charges for driving under the influence, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible as your future and your freedom may be on the line.