Earlier this summer, our blog discussed how the Florida Supreme Court had agreed to hear oral arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of the state’s refusal to submit law.
The case in question was filed by a Volusia County motorist arrested on suspicion of DUI back in 2013 who refused to take a breath test. While he was ultimately found not guilty on the impaired driving charge, he did enter a plea for his refusal to submit to a breath test given that he had a prior refusal on his driving record.
To recap, Florida’s refusal law dictates that those motorists suspected of driving under the influence who refuse to submit to a breath test will see their license suspended for one year for a first refusal.
It also provides, however, that those motorists who refuse to submit to a breath test on a second or subsequent occasion will have their license suspended for 18 months, and be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, which punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
In his appeal, the motorist is arguing that this refusal law, at least as it relates to breath tests, violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, as law enforcement officials should be required to secure a warrant beforehand.
While the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal disagreed and upheld the state’s refusal law, questions are now being raised as to whether the state’s high court will actually consider this issue given the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Birchfield v. North Dakota.
Here, SCOTUS explored whether law enforcement officials in states that criminalize the refusal of both blood and breath tests must secure a warrant.
In a landmark 5-3 decision, the court held that while law enforcement officials cannot conduct warrantless blood tests, they can indeed conduct warrantless breath tests.
“The Fourth Amendment permits warrantless breath tests incident to arrests for drunk driving,” reads the opinion. “The impact of breath tests on privacy is slight, and the need for BAC testing is great.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Florida Office of the Attorney General recently filed a motion asking for the case filed by the Volusia County motorist to be dismissed given that SCOTUS’ ruling has “definitively resolved any questions presented.”
While the Florida Supreme Court has yet to rule on the AG’s motion, it would seem as if the odds of the case being dismissed are relatively good.
Stay tuned for updates …
Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if you are facing charges for driving under the influence, as your future and your freedom are at stake.