In Florida, when a police officer stops a driver and suspects that he/she is driving while impaired from alcohol or drugs, that police officer will go through the normal DUI investigation. That typically includes various questions about what the driver has been doing, where he/she has been and how much he/she has had to drink. It is important for everyone to understand that you have a right to refuse to answer such questions. In fact, it is usually a good idea to give your name, license, registration and insurance card and then request to speak to a lawyer. As most people should know by now, anything else you say can and will be used against you in a DUI case.
The next step in a DUI investigation is normally to ask the driver to exit the vehicle and submit to field sobriety tests. Again, it is usually a bad idea to perform these tests. First and foremost, these are completely subjective tests (i.e. if the police officer says you failed, then you failed). And these subjective tests are being conducted and graded by a person who already believes you are drunk. Also, if there is no video in the police car documenting the tests, your ability to defend your performance in court later on is severely impaired. Even if there is a video, the video will not catch certain critical parts of the testing, For instance, when the police officer conducts the HGN test where he asks you to follow the light with your eyes, he will say you failed, and the video will not be able to disprove that because it will not capture how you did on that particular test.
After the field sobriety tests, or your refusal to perform them, the officer will likely arrest you for DUI. You are taken to the jail and booked. Only after you are in the jail does the officer asks you if you want to blow in the breathalyzer. Given the timing, the first thing you need to understand is that the breathalyzer will not save you from an arrest. You have already been arrested. It is just another tool the police use to try to convict you of DUI. In Florida, when you obtain a driver’s license, you consent to blow into the breathalyzer as part of a lawful DUI investigation. However, you can still refuse that request. If you refuse a breathalyzer test as part of your first DUI, there are two primary repercussions. As long as the DUI arrest is valid, your driver’s license will be suspended for a year (rather than six months if you take the breathalyzer test). Secondly, if your DUI case goes to trial, the state can use the refusal against you in court and argue you refused the breathalzyer because you knew you would fail. Of course, you and your criminal defense lawyer can argue the many other reasons why you rightfully felt like you should not have taken the breathalyzer.
However, if you get a second DUI and you refuse the breathalyzer test a second time, the punishments are greater. The driver’s license suspension is now 18 months rather than a year. More importantly, the state can charge you with a separate crime for failing to submit to a second breathalyzer on a second DUI if the second DUI is valid and the police officer properly warns you of the additional suspension and potential crime involved. In that case, a defendant would be facing a second DUI charge (which also comes with enhanced penalties) and a separate misdemeanor for the refusal to blow in the breathalyzer a second time.