BAC Tests and Breathalyzers
If an officer pulls you over, finds probable cause that you committed DUI, and formally arrests you, then the officer can conduct a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) test, which measures how much alcohol is in your blood. Some different types of BAC tests include:
The breath test is the most common test used by the police because breathalyzers are easily accessible and provide instant results (however, these tests are not always accurate). Breathalyzers calculate the amount of alcohol that passes through the breath from the lungs, and uses that information to estimate your blood alcohol content. The devices used in Florida are known as the Intoxilyzer 8000 series.
Because breathalyzers only make an estimation of your BAC, they may not be very accurate. Some courts, such as in Orange County, will treat breathalyzer results with skepticism or even decline to consider them entirely!
These tests are usually used when other tests aren’t available because they are less accurate. Urine tests cannot be completed at the time of the arrest. These tests are taken to and received from laboratories, and as such, there is a possibility of error in the test results.
An analysis of a blood test is more accurate than a urine or breath test but there can still be complications in the lab. Mix-ups, lack of sterilization, or even a lack of refrigeration can contribute to inaccurate test results.
Can I refuse to take a BAC Test?
If you are arrested for DUI and the officer asks you to take a BAC Test, the officer is required by law to explain the consequences to you (this is known as the Implied Consent warning):
If you refuse to take a BAC test and it is your first refusal, your driver’s license will be suspended by the DHSMV (Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles) for one year. If there has been a previous refusal, the result will be an 18-month suspension and a misdemeanor charge. If you refuse to submit to a BAC Test, the refusal is usually admissible as evidence in any criminal proceeding.
However, if you consent to a BAC test and you score .08 or higher, your license will be suspended for 6 months and you will receive a DUI citation.
It may be advantageous to refuse a BAC test if you suspect you may score above the legal limit. Like a refusal to perform Field Sobriety Tests, a refusal to take a BAC test prevents the prosecutor from introducing evidence of your level of intoxication in court (but keep in mind that your refusal itself can still be used against you). Your license will be automatically suspended, but there are ways to contest this.