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New law could impact DUI investigations and penalties

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2024 | CRIMINAL LAW - Criminal Law

In Florida, being arrested and charged with driving under the influence will inevitably lead to fear as to what might happen. People are frequently unaware of their rights as the traffic stop is made and the investigation gets underway.

For example, there can be confusion as to whether the driver has the right to refuse to submit to a Breathalyzer test and if it is wise to do so. There is extensive debate as to the preferred strategy. With that, lawmakers are taking steps to address the issue of drivers’ refusal with a new law that will alter the penalties.

State Senate bill would change penalties for refusal

A bill was recently passed by the Florida Senate to change the penalties for refusal. A driver who is charged with refusal could accept a yearlong suspension of their driver’s license or have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle for a year.

Since penalties for a first DUI in the Sunshine State can be severe with incarceration, fines and a driver’s license suspension, some drivers choose to refuse to take the breath test. Nationally, around one-quarter of drivers who are asked to take the breath test refuse. Florida is about 10% higher than that.

People often do not realize that simply having a driver’s license means they have already agreed to take a breath test when asked to do so by a law enforcement officer as part of “implied consent.” Currently, Florida penalizes a driver who refuses with the possibility of a driver’s license suspension for one year. Some drivers continue to drive even if their license was suspended, but this can make a bad situation worse with jail and fines for doing so.

If the new law passes, the option of installing an interlock device will compel drivers to blow into the machine to ensure they have not consumed alcohol before the vehicle with start. Statistically, this reduces the chance of a driver committing a DUI by 75%. The driver would be obligated to pay for the installation and maintenance of the device.

All types of DUI charges need to be fought

Regardless of the type of DUI charge a person is confronted with, it is imperative to understand what penalties can be assessed and how to combat them. This includes the initial traffic stop, the request for a breathalyzer test and beyond. Knowing what options are available with a criminal defense can help with devising a strategy to avoid the worst consequences, maintain driving privileges and move forward.