June 8, 2018
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about one in three traffic deaths involve drunk drivers. In 2017, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reported about 45,000 driving under the influence (DUI) arrests. DUI means a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher.
What Tests Are Used?
As with other states, Florida law enforcement officers use four tests to determine whether a car driver is under the influence:
- A standardized field sobriety test
- Breath test
- Blood test
- Urine test
As a Florida driver, you are deemed to have given “implied consent” to chemical and physical testing for DUI when you get behind the wheel of a car, per the state’s implied consent statute. By accepting the privilege of driving, you consent to agree to a physical or chemical test if suspected of driving under the influence. If you refuse, you are subject to a driver’s license suspension for at least one year; additional refusals may result in jail time.
What Is the Field Sobriety Test?
According to researchers, trained officers are 90 percent accurate in identifying alcohol-impaired drivers using the field sobriety test, which includes three components:
- A horizontal gaze test, tracking an object like a pen or flashlight, to see if the driver’s eyes involuntarily jerk (unimpaired drivers have no difficulty smoothly following the object’s movement)
- Walk and turn in a straight line
- Stand on one leg and count
The Breathalyzer (Breath Test)
With this test, the driver blows into a specialized machine, which tests blood alcohol content by measuring ethanol exhaled in one breath. The law enforcement officer is supposed to first observe the driver for 20 minutes before giving the test; interestingly, if the suspected driver burps during the observation period, the officer should re-start the 20-minute window (because burping will skew the results). The Breathalyzer tests are founded on solid science for nearly 75 years. However, breath tests are not infallible. Defenses include:
- The officer may not have proper training or qualifications
- The machine may not have been warmed up sufficiently or properly calibrated
- Illnesses, metabolism, medication, and dental issues can affect the results
- Those who are regularly exposed to gas vapors (e.g., painters) can have higher results
Warrant Required for Blood Test
However, to administer a blood test to determine blood alcohol content, police must first obtain a search warrant. Per the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota, a blood test is considered more intrusive than a breath or urine test.
Were You Arrested for Driving Under the Influence? Contact an Experienced Pinellas County, Florida, DUI Attorney Today
If you or someone you know has a DUI charge, or failed or refused to give a breath test, you should talk right away with an experienced attorney. The Khonsari Law Group is ready to help you. We are conveniently located in St. Petersburg, Florida. Call us right away at (727) 269-5300, or contact us through our online form. We will give you peace of mind. We are seasoned lawyers and handle DUI cases regularly. Let us help you protect your rights. Call us today for a consultation.