In most DUI cases, when a police officer claims to observe signs of impairment of a driver, the police officer will request the suspect to take a breathalyzer test to determine if the driver is driving under the influence of alcohol (i.e. DUI). Florida law allows a police officer to request that a driver take a breathalyzer test if the police officer makes a valid arrest for DUI based on his/her observations that the driver is driving while impaired. The driver can refuse to submit to the breathalyzer. If the driver refuses to take the breathalyzer test, the state can use the breathalyzer refusal against the driver at the DUI trial.
If the driver submits to the breathalyzer and the police officer is not satisfied with the breathalyzer results, the police officer cannot then request a urine or blood test without specific evidence that the driver is impaired by drugs rather than alcohol. A breathalyzer is supposed to test the person’s blood alcohol content. The breathalyzer cannot determine if a driver has used drugs. A urine or blood test can test for the presence of alcohol and/or drugs in a person’s system. However, if the police officer requests the breathalyzer test, the officer cannot then request the urine or blood test to look for drugs just because he/she did not like the breathalyzer results.
In a recent DUI case south of Jacksonville, Florida, the police officer saw the suspect stopped at a traffic light. The light turned green and red and then green again, but the suspect never drove forward. The police officer approached the vehicle and saw the driver laying down in the driver’s seat. The officer said he observed signs of impairment and conducted field sobriety tests. The officer said the suspect failed the field sobriety tests and arrested the suspect for DUI. At the police department, the suspect submitted to two breathalyzer tests. Both breathalyzer tests yielded results under the legal limit of 0.08. At that point, the police officer claimed that he thought the suspect might be under the influence of drugs and requested the suspect submit to a urine test. The suspect refused. The state ultimately tried to use the suspect’s refusal of the urine test against the suspect at his DUI trial.
The court said the state was not permitted to use the suspect’s refusal of the urine test against him at the DUI trial. The state was limited to trying to prove the DUI with the officer’s testimony of his observations and the two breathalyzer tests under the legal limit of 0.08. Because the police officer was not able to articulate any specific reasons why he thought the suspect was impaired by drugs, as opposed to just alcohol, the police officer was not allowed to request the urine test. Since the police officer’s urine test request was improper, the state could not use the urine test refusal against the defendant at the DUI trial.