In Florida, when a police officer makes a DUI arrest, he/she will normally ask the suspect to submit to a breathalyzer test to be taken after the arrest. If the suspect agrees to take the breathalyzer test which results in a reading of 0.08 or higher, the state will certainly use that evidence against the defendant in the DUI case. If the suspect refuses the breathalyzer test, the state will attempt to use that refusal against the defendant in the DUI case by arguing that the defendant refused the breathalyzer test because he/she knew there would be a bad result. Of course, there are any number of reasons why a suspect would refuse a breathalyzer test after a DUI arrest, and he/she can argue those in response in the DUI case, but the state will normally have a right to make their argument as well.
However, in order for the state to use a breathalyzer refusal against a defendant in a DUI case in Florida, the police must follow certain rules. One such rule is that when explaining the breathalyzer test to the suspect, the police officer must inform the suspect that if he/she refuses to submit to the breathalyzer test, that refusal can be used against him/her at the DUI trial and result in a suspension of his driver’s license. If the police officer fails to tell the suspect that, the state may not use the refusal against the defendant at trial.
In a recent DUI case near Jacksonville, Florida, a police officer stopped the suspect for driving without his headlights on. The police officer indicated that he observed signs of impairment about the suspect and initiated a DUI investigation. The DUI investigation then led to a DUI arrest. After the arrest and at the jail, the police officer asked the suspect if he would submit to a breathalyzer test. The suspect refused. The police officer then read him the implied consent information including the required information about a refusal of a breathalyzer test being used against the suspect at a DUI trial. The suspect was Hispanic. He understood some English, but his primary language was Spanish. He indicated that he did not fully understand the implied consent warnings. The police officer declined to re-read them in Spanish.
During the DUI case, the criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the evidence that the defendant refused to submit to the breathalyzer because he was not properly read the implied consent information. The court agreed with the defense. Since the defendant did not understand English very well, he was not properly informed of the implied consent information. Since the police officer did not read it to him in Spanish, when a Spanish version or interpreter was available, the state did not comply with the implied consent law.
The result was not that the DUI case was dismissed; the state could still go forward with the DUI charge. However, the state was restricted from using the evidence of the breathalyzer refusal against the defendant.