Sometimes a driver may change their decision to take a breath test or chemical test to determine the content of their breath or blood. This refusal decision is important both in the administrative suspension of a Florida Driver’s license at the Bureau of administrative Reviews and in the criminal case prosecuted by the local State Attorney’s office in court. In driving under influence cases, the evidence of defendant’s refusal to submit to breath test is sometimes admissible. It certainly is admissible where the State seeks to administratively suspend the driver’s license for failure to comply with the implied consent law. How do you let the court know there is a problem with the police procedure? A motion in limine can be filed with the court.
What is a Pretrial Motion in Limine?
A pretrial motion can be filed to attack the use of statements of actions of the driver in the prosecution of a crime. This action results in a hearing in front of a judge and not a jury. If the motion is successful, the jury will never know about the alleged refusal. prosecutors use the argument that the reason for the refusal by the suspect was that they driver knew they would have failed the breath test by blowing over a .08.
What happens when a driver changes his or her mind about refusal to take a breath test?
The driver’s refusal is not admissible, if they timely retract their refusal. The court found, “There was no material inconvenience to the police, for two Intoxilyzers and two Intoxilyzer operators were available. [the Florida Highway Patrol officer] actually ran his Intoxilyzer, after the retraction, to obtain the “refusal” on the Breath Test affidavit. ” Florida courts have ruled where the driver / defendant was continuously in presence of officers between refusal and retraction, and there would have been no inconvenience to law enforcement in permitting defendant to take test, the refusal cannot be held against them in a DUI case.
What must a driver be told by police seeking a DUI breath test?
- Request to submit to a test
- Suspend for 12 months for first refusal
- Suspend for 18 months for subsequent refusal
- Second or subsequent refusal can be a misdemeanor
- Refusal is admissible in criminal case
“It is not hard to imagine circumstances where the defendant,
soon after declining to take the breath test, has second thoughts.”
Here is the text of one court’s ruling:
STATE OF FLORIDA, Plaintiff, vs. STEVEN PAUL BURCH, Defendant. County Court, 12th Judicial Circuit in and for Sarasota County. Case No. 2015 CT 012729 SC. April 20, 2017.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION IN LIMINE
THIS CAUSE having come to be heard upon Defendant, Steven Paul Burch’s Motion in Limine, to preclude the State from introducing any evidence that the Defendant initially refused to submit to a breath test, the Court having held hearing and taking testimony and otherwise being fully advised finds as follows:
1. On August 8, 2015, Mr. Burch was arrested for DUI.
2. Mr. Burch initially refused to take a breath test at the scene of the arrest, but changed his mind and requested to take a breath test once he arrived at the Sarasota County Jail.
3. Mr. Burch was continuously in the presence of Trooper Angelicchi from the time of his initial refusal until his retraction of the refusal.
4. When Mr. Burch arrived at the Sarasota County Jail, an Intoxilyzer was available to conduct a breath as well as two permitted breath test operators to conduct the breath test: Trooper Angelicchi and Corrections Officer Rowe.
5. The breath test affidavit that is marked “subject test refused” shows that the Intoxilyzer was run at 11:37 pm, which was long after Mr. Burch retracted the refusal.
6. In Larmer v. State of Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 522 So.2d 941 (Fla. 4th DCA 1988), the court stated:
. . .an “absolute rule” prohibiting a subsequent consent after an initial refusal could lead to unnecessarily harsh and self-defeating results. It is not hard to imagine circumstances where the defendant, soon after declining to take the breath test, has second thoughts. If the test results would remain valid, and if no material inconvenience is caused to the police, we fail to see the harm in permitting the defendant to subsequently consent to take the test.
The Court held:
. . .while petitioner was continuously in the presence of the police officers, and in circumstances where no inconvenience would result by permitting him immediately thereafter to take the test that would produce the evidence that is the object and intent of Florida’s Implied Consent Law.
Larmer citied to a Utah case that held a one hour delay was not a refusal.
7. In this case Mr. Burch was continuously in the presence of the police officers. There was no material inconvenience to the police, for two Intoxilyzers and two Intoxilyzer operators were available. Trooper Angelicchi actually ran his Intoxilyzer, after the retraction, to obtain the “refusal” on the Breath Test affidavit. There was no lawful reason not to let Mr. Burch submit to a breath test when Trooper Angelicchi was conducting the test for the ‘refusal.” The duration of the time between the refusal at the scene of the arrest and the retraction upon arrival at the jail was not of such length to render the breath test invalid.
8. While Mr. Burch initially refused the breath test, he later retracted his refusal and requested a breath test. Following Larmer, since Mr. Burch was continuously in the presence of the police officers and under circumstances where no inconvenience would result by permitting him to take a breath test, there was not a refusal within the meaning of Florida’s Implied Consent Law. Also see State v. Eng, 6 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 649a (Fla. Pinellas Cty. Ct. September 15, 1998).
Accordingly, the Defendant’s Motion in Limine is GRANTED.
Source: 25 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 289a Online Reference: FLWSUPP 2503BURC
How to get a Florida Driver’s License back after Suspension?
Recently courts have tried to help those with suspended licenses get their driver’s licenses back. According a recent report in the Florida Bar News, one judge organized a “clinic, the first of its kind in Leon County, in order to help resolve a significant problem in the area. Hundreds of Leon County drivers are operating a vehicle with a suspended or revoked license, and Smith says nine out of 10 drivers do not understand what is required of them to get their licenses back.” However, judges are limited in the help that can be provided to those who are subjected to the administrative license suspensions issued to those impacts from driving under the influence charges. Among the reasons these special programs apply: failure to resolve traffic infractions; accumulating too many points on a license; failure to have insurance; or failure to satisfy child support obligations.
Florida Implied Consent Warning Summary
Here is a summary of the language police use when threatening a suspect to take a breath or chemical test:
“If you fail to submit to the test I have requested of you, your privilege to operate a motor vehicle will be suspended for a period of one (1) year for a first refusal, or eighteen (18) months if your privilege has been previously suspended as a result of a refusal to submit to a lawful test of your breath, urine or blood. Additionally, if you refuse to submit to the test I have requested of you and if your driving privilege has been previously suspended for a prior refusal to submit to a lawful test of your breath, urine or blood, you will be committing a misdemeanor. Refusal to submit to the test I have requested of you is admissible into evidence in any criminal proceeding.”
“Do you still refuse to submit to this test knowing that your driving privilege will be suspended for a period of at least one year and that you will be charged criminally for a subsequent refusal?”