Are new penalties coming to Florida drivers who refuse to take a breathalyzer test? A new bill submitted to state Senate wants to make it so. According to theSun Sentinel, the bill, filed by state Senator David Simmons, aims to make drivers think twice before choosing not to comply with police officers during a DUI traffic stop.
Under current Florida implied consent law, drivers who reject a breathalyzer test face an administrative license suspension of one year. Under the new bill, these penalties would expand to include a $500 to $1,000 fine, a loss of four points on a driver’s license, and six months of probation. If a driver refuses again (in a separate traffic stop), the bill would also make that refusal a misdemeanor offense and expose the driver to criminal penalties. Additionally, all of these penalties would be protected from judicial alteration, meaning that a judge would not be able to suspend or reduce them.
The bill is not the first to focus on Florida DUI law recently. Last November, a similar implied consent bill was submitted to the state House of Representatives. In 2014, lawmakers also made ignition interlock devices mandatory for first-time offenders who were recorded with blood alcohol content twice the legal limit.
Tougher Laws Despite Improving Statistics
The new legislative effort to toughen Florida DUI laws comes at a time when drunk driving statistics are actually improving. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), there were nearly 20,000 fewer DUI arrests in 2014 in Florida than in 2002. When comparing the numbers between 1982 and 2013, alcohol-related traffic deaths were also down roughly 65%.
Despite the encouraging numbers, however, there have been several high-profile DUI cases that have captured headlines statewide. In November 2013, Broward County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Imperato was stopped on suspicion of drunk driving—and in September 2015, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz was, as well. Both state officials refused breathalyzer tests in order to not provide law enforcement with evidence that could be used against them.
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