Defense attorneys throughout Florida have been challenging the accuracy of breathalyzer machines — and the fact that their results are permitted in court as evidence against DUI defendants — for many years. Breathalyzer tests help law enforcement officers confirm their suspicions that a driver may be too drunk to drive, but a number of factors can influence the accuracy of the BAC results they produce. Still, drivers are expected to submit to these tests, and when they refuse, they face additional consequences.
If you’re wondering whether refusing a DUI breath test might save you from a conviction, the answer is that it’s highly unlikely. A DUI suspect may be convicted of DUI without ever taking a breath test. If you’ve recently been arrested for driving under the influence and you refused to breathe into the breathalyzer at the police station, despite having given consent by applying for a Florida driver’s license, your DUI case could have more layers than others. You deserve competent representation from a skilled DUI lawyer in the West Palm Beach area.
Two Types of Breathalyzers
Florida law enforcement officers on traffic duty rely on two types of machines to gather information about a drunk driving suspect’s level of intoxication. When you’re stopped for a DUI investigation, the first machine the officer will use is known as the portable breathalyzer. The result this machine produces cannot be used as evidence in court; however, it gives the officer “probable cause” to complete their DUI investigation and place you under arrest if he previously observed dangerous driving behavior.
The second breathalyzer test is the one you blow into at the police station. In Florida, all police stations must use the Intoxilyzer 8000 to test DUI suspects, and they may only use results from this brand in court as evidence. If you refuse to blow into the Intoxilyzer 8000, your refusal can be used against you in court. Your refusal may show the court your “consciousness of guilt.”
What Kind of Evidence Can Be Used Against Me at Trial?
Simply refusing to blow into a breathalyzer machine can be used against you in a DUI trial. There are two types of evidence that the state can use to gain a conviction, even without knowing your BAC at the time you were arrested.
Using Direct Evidence in a DUI Case
Direct evidence is evidence that immediately establishes the factual matter to be true without the need for inferences. Examples of direct evidence in a DUI case are:
- A BAC test result of 0.08 or higher
- The officer’s observations
- Witness testimony
So, even without the BAC test result, other types of direct evidence, such as the officer observing you swerving in your car and smelling alcohol on you, can support the prosecution’s case.
What is Circumstantial Evidence in a DUI Case?
Circumstantial evidence is made up of facts that don’t prove the crime but can be used to infer a crime occurred. Examples could be:
- A hot car hood, you sitting in the driver’s seat, your car being on the side of the road. These facts can lead an officer to conclude that you drove, even if there is no direct evidence, such as a witness seeing you drive by. Demonstrating that you drove your car while intoxicated is one element the prosecution must prove to gain a conviction for DUI.
- Empty beer bottles and drug paraphernalia found in your car may be used as circumstantial evidence.
- Any statements you give to police about your mental or physical condition — such as telling them you had a few beers — can work against you. These statements don’t prove you were drunk, but they support the fact that you were more likely than not impaired when you were stopped for DUI.
- The results of field sobriety tests like the horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn, and one-leg stand. If an officer witnesses you failing these tests, it can be inferred you were impaired at the time of the stop.
When the circumstantial evidence is strong enough, a jury may convict a defendant of DUI. It’s not necessary for the jury to have both direct and circumstantial evidence to convict; however, they must believe that the facts prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant was driving under the influence.
Consequences of Refusing a Breathalyzer Test in Florida
In Florida, refusing a breath test can lead to an automatic license suspension of up to one year and may cause the court to extend your sentence if you’re convicted of DUI.
Diversion programs are essential to getting the state to drop your DUI charge, and completing one makes it easier to appeal to the court to have your charge sealed from your public records. The court may offer participation in a diversion program as an alternative sentence, and could involve:
- Performing community service
- Attending DUI school
- Completing a Victim’s Awareness program
It may seem like a lot of work, but this is usually preferable to the sentence you’d receive upon a conviction.
Avoid the Consequences of Refusing a DUI Breath Test
If you’ve recently been arrested in Florida for drunk driving, and you refused to take a breath test, you need a strong DUI defense. Attorney Brian Gabriel has served people accused of DUI and related crimes for more than 30 years in West Palm Beach and surrounding areas. Call Attorney Brian Gabriel at the Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel at (561) 622-5575 for a free consultation or complete a contact form today.