The U.S. Supreme Court made headlines on June 23, 2016 when it declared in Birchfield v. North Dakota that states cannot criminalize refusal to take a blood test without a warrant in a DUI case. This is a major victory for the Fourth Amendment, which protects an individual’s rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

It’s crucial for drivers to understand their rights if they’re pulled over for a suspected DUI in Florida. If you were arrested for a DUI, contact the Sarasota DUI defense attorneys of Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. at (941) 363-7900.

Before Birchfield v. North Dakota

Florida’s Implied Consent law states that if someone accepts the privilege of driving – meaning you have a valid driver’s license – then that person automatically agrees to take a chemical or physical test to determine if they have alcohol in their system while in control of a vehicle. The law made it a misdemeanor crime to refuse a blood test, punishable by license suspension.

If you were pulled over and an officer had reasonable belief that you’d been drinking or taking drugs, he or she could require you take a breathalyzer or blood test. You technically had the right to refuse, but not agreeing to these tests could result in an additional criminal charge and use of such refusal as evidence in court.

After Birchfield v. North Dakota

The Supreme Court altered the state’s implied consent laws with its decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota. Now, if you are pulled over, an officer can ask you to take a breath test, but he or she cannot impose additional criminal charges for refusing a blood test without a warrant.

If you refuse a breath test on the roadside or after an arrest at the station, you can be charged with refusing to submit and lose your license for 1 year. Additionally, in many states, refusal of breath and blood tests will also result in civil penalties. The decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota did not impact civil penalties that may be imposed. It only decriminalizes refusal to take a warrantless blood test.

The Supreme Court found that warrantless blood tests are unconstitutional and amount to an unreasonable search and seizure. The justices stated that blood tests are too invasive to be required without a warrant.

What Should you do if You’re Stopped for a DUI?

Many people are understandably confused about their rights if they are pulled over for drunk driving. You should remain calm, but there is a limit to what you are required to say or do.

Here are a few quick tips if you’re pulled over:

  • If you are asked to get out of the car, you must comply.
  • You do not have to submit to field sobriety tests; however, your refusal may be used as evidence in court.
  • If you refuse a breath test, you may receive an additional criminal charge.
  • You may refuse a blood test if the police do not have a warrant; however, civil penalties may apply, and your refusal may be used as evidence in court.
  • You must provide police with your name, insurance information, and vehicle registration.
  • You never have to admit to drinking or taking drugs.
  • You have the right to remain silent. Refusal to answer questions cannot be punished.
  • Do not argue with the police or try to flee. If you are unfairly arrested, you and a skilled DUI defense attorney may be able to fight the charges.

A Florida DUI Attorney Can Help

If you were arrested for a DUI and you’re worried your rights were violated during the traffic stop, arrest, or subsequent questioning, call a Florida DUI attorney with Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. at (941) 363-7900 as soon as possible.

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