State Supreme Court To Consider Breath Tests

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case challenging the constitutionality of a state law that allows people to be prosecuted for refusing to take breath tests when suspected of drunken driving.

The Volusia County case focuses on whether it is constitutional to punish people who refuse to submit to breath tests when police do not have warrants, according to a June ruling by the 5th District Court of Appeal, which upheld the law.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the challenge filed by attorneys for William Williams, who was stopped in October 2013 on suspicion of driving under the influence. An arresting officer, who did not have a warrant, asked Williams to submit to a breath test to determine blood-alcohol content but Williams refused, according to court documents.

Williams’ attorneys contend that the state law violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which, in part, bars unreasonable searches and seizures.

“(Williams’) case was unquestionably a routine DUI investigation and there is nothing magical about a DUI investigation (which every law enforcement officer from fresh recruit to seasoned captain has handled) which ‘trumps’ or abrogates the Fourth Amendment in hopes of warding off ‘carnage on the highways,’ ” Williams’ attorneys wrote in a brief asking the Supreme Court to consider the case.

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office filed a brief in September asking the court to turn down Williams’ appeal. In part, that brief said the 5th District Court of Appeal’s ruling in support of the law was “well-reasoned and does not conflict with any Florida precedent.”

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