Many people are confused about whether they should take a breathalyzer test or not in the event that they are pulled over by a police officer and suspected of driving under the influence. The answer is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no. There are legal factors as well as factors related to the reliability of the breathalyzer tests used in Florida.
In many cases, a driver who has never had a DUI before, and who is unsure of whether they will blow over the legal limit of .08, should refuse to take a breathalyzer. If the driver is certain that he or she has not been drinking, taking the test would be the right choice.
The Machines Used in Florida are Old
Florida first purchased its breathalyzer machines in 2006. When newly purchased, they cost the state $6,000 each. These expensive machines are getting old now, but due to the expense of replacing them, the state is trying to make them last as long as possible. The repairs are also costly and are necessary more often as the machines get older. Agencies have been trying to find ways to avoid having to ship the machines out for repairs. Some of the errors that pop up on these machines are completely ignored and deleted. One former inspector admitted that he was actually trained to use the backspace to delete error messages.
The state has also eliminated certain requirements regarding the inspection of testing units. While it used to require mandatory testing of the devices at the location in which they are used, the units are now shipped to the inspectors for testing. This decision was made not because it was considered an acceptable alternative, but because the departments were faced with budget cuts that meant there were fewer inspectors available to do on-site testing, and shipping the units was less expensive.
Part of the inspection was to determine that the machines were properly set up and that the rules for use were being followed. This former requirement was removed to save money.
The result of the old machines, avoidance of repairs, and the loosening of inspection obligations is that the machines are not particularly reliable. Submitting to a test could mean that the results are off by just a little bit, but that could mean massive differences in the consequences faced by the driver.
The RIDR Program is Only Available for Drivers with BACs of Under .20
The RIDR program, or Reducing Impaired Driving Recidivism, is a new program created by the State’s Attorney’s Office as a way for the first time DUI offenders to avoid being convicted and to have their record completely sealed once they have completed the program. Drivers are only eligible for this program is their BAC was below .20.
Statistics from the Tampa Police Department indicate that about 10.3 percent of people who take breathalyzers have a BAC of .20 or higher. These drivers, assuming they had never had a DUI before, would have been better off refusing to submit to a breathalyzer because they were automatically ineligible for a program that would allow them to expunge their DUI from their record.
Results Above .15 Mean Greater Penalties
When a driver has a BAC of .15 or higher, the penalties for the DUI are higher than the penalties for refusing to take a breathalyzer test. Additional penalties include a much higher fine and a court order requiring the installation of an ignition interlock device for at least 6 months. The fine is between $500 and $1,500 less for refusing the test, and there is no requirement of the ignition interlock device.
Based on statistics, more than half of the people who take breathalyzer tests blew more than a .15, meaning more than 50 percent of people would have fared better by refusing the test.
Refusing to Take the Breathalyzer is Less Problematic than it Once Was
Florida used to hit anyone who refused a breathalyzer to a 90-day hard suspension of their license. This was changed in 2013, and drivers can now apply for a hardship license, as long as this is his or her first offense. Requesting immediate reinstatement of a driver’s license under the hardship exemption is a good option unless you can afford a DUI attorney who can represent you at a formal review hearing and possibly invalidate the suspension completely.
If you do not contest the suspension, and this is your first DUI, you can appear in front of the Bureau of Administrative Review within 10 days of your arrest and ask that your license be immediately reinstated. In order to do this, you will need to stipulate to the DUI, enroll in DUI school and show proof of that enrollment, have no record of previous DUI’s, and have a valid driver’s license that does not have other unrelated holds on it.
Is Refusing the Right Move?
For many drivers, refusing to take the breathalyzer is the smart move if you are pulled over and suspected of a DUI for the first time. Submitting to a test could lead to faulty results and harsher penalties than if you had refused the test. While refusal still comes with its own consequences, it will often lead to lesser penalties.
How Our Florida DUI Attorneys Can Help You
If you or someone you love has been arrested and charged with DUI in Florida, it is crucial that you speak with one of experienced and aggressive DUI Defense Lawyers as soon as possible. The Attorneys at Musca Law have over 150-years of combined DUI defense experience. To best serve you, Musca Law is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At Musca Law, our lawyers listen to you and strive to provide the best legal guidance and representation available.
If you are interested in fighting your Florida DUI charges or if you need a defense attorney who will fight for you, contact our law firm today at (888) 484-5057 to understand your legal options.