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U.S. Supreme Court To Review State Laws Criminalizing Driver’s Refusal for Warrantless Blood-Alcohol Tests

Drunk driving has been increasingly criminalized and punished over the last two decades. The safety of our society dictates that harsh punishments should be meted out to those who threaten that safety because they drive while intoxicated. Recently, the extent to which states criminalize drinking and driving has begun to be scrutinized to determine if the laws put forth to combat DUIs are violating drivers’ constitutional rights. In the last months, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to review state laws that criminalize a driver’s refusal for warrantless blood-alcohol tests.

State Laws Violate Fourth Amendment Rights

This case springs off another U.S. Supreme Court case that was decided in 2013; the Supreme Court held that those who have been suspected of driving drunk cannot automatically be required to submit to blood tests to test their blood alcohol content without a warrant. Thirteen states, as a result of this ruling, decided to circumvent the ruling by making it a crime to refuse to submit to blood tests. Those bringing this case forward to the Supreme Court believe that those laws that criminalize the refusal to undergo blood alcohol tests are a violation of our Fourth Amendment, which protects persons from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Florida’s Implied Consent Law Under Attack

Florida is one of the states that punishes those who refuse to submit to blood alcohol tests without a warrant. Florida’s law is known as implied consent law, which states that in the case of driving a motor vehicle, that is a privilege and not a right. As such, the law states that Florida extends the privilege to those who obey the laws dictating the operation of a motor vehicle and blood alcohol tests, when a police officer reasonably suspects that the driver is intoxicated, is one of the obligations that drivers enjoying the privilege must obey. In other words, by operating a motor vehicle in the state of Florida, the driver is providing implied consent to be tested for blood alcohol content if he or she has been lawfully arrested for drinking and driving.

The Current Consequences of the Implied Consent Law

The consequences of this law are the suspension and/or later revocation of the driver’s license or the “privilege” to operate a motor vehicle in the state of Florida. The driver may have his/her license suspended on the first refusal for a year; for the second refusal and any other subsequent refusals, the driver may have his/her license suspended for a period of 18 months and any additional punishments such as jail time. Finally, refusing to submit to a blood alcohol test may be admitted as evidence in any criminal proceeding.

For those who may be involved in criminal proceedings as a result of driving under the influence, refusal to submit to a blood alcohol test could have significant and rather prejudicial effects on a plea of innocence. For someone who has been charged with drinking and driving and believes that they are falsely charged, the refusal of a blood alcohol test may appear as guilty conduct.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Driving under the influence laws in Florida have harsh punishments attached. The Implied Consent law, though currently under attack, is still good law, and if you or a loved one has been charged under the implied consent law, it is important to speak with a good defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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