Florida penalties for refusing a Breathalyzer could get harsher

In an effort to reduce drunk driving, which causes many car accidents, a Florida lawmaker has introduced legislation to increase the penalties for refusing to take a Breathalyzer test.

At present, a person who is suspected of impaired driving and refuses a breath, urine or blood test can have their driver’s license suspended for one year. State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, has introduced a bill that would increase the penalties to six months probation, a fine of between $500 and $1,000, and the loss of four points on the offender’s driver’s license.

Under the proposed legislation, a second refusal would constitute a first-degree misdemeanor, with up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. The offender would also be subject to having an ignition lock put on their vehicle at their own expense. Under the bill, judges would not have the power to withhold or suspend the penalties.

A first-time DUI conviction can carry with it a fine of between $500 and $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to six months, though incarceration is rarely imposed in practice.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), DUI arrests in Florida have fallen from a peak of 60,574 in 2002 to 2014’s total of 40,677. The number of deaths from alcohol-related car accidents has also continued a long-term decline, possibly as the result of increased awareness promoted by groups like MADD.