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Field Sobriety Tests – Florida DUI Law

If a police officer suspects a driver is operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it is likely that the officer will ask the driver to conduct a field sobriety exercise. Field sobriety exercises are designed to test a person’s physical and mental capabilities. Field sobriety tests are agility and coordination based exercises that can be difficult to perform even if you are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you performed a field sobriety exercise and were arrested for DUI, you should contact a Tampa DUI attorney right away. The DUI lawyers at our firm can challenge the validity of the exercise and try to legally get the test thrown out of court.

Field sobriety exercises are not always an accurate indicator of whether or not a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There are many factors that can cause a completely sober driver to fail a field sobriety exercise and appear intoxicated. For instance, the weather, lack of proper instruction by the police officer, traffic distractions, physical condition of the driver, and type of shoes the driver is wearing can all be factors that diminish the reliability of these exercises.

Police officers have been given discretion in determining whether or not a driver has failed a field sobriety test. The police officer will subjectively determine if the driver has either performed to standard, passed, or failed the test. This can be problematic for drivers because in many cases the police officer already suspects the driver is intoxicated and simply conducts the exercise to bolster the evidence against the driver. Therefore, most drivers will benefit from refusing to participate in a field sobriety exercise. Unlike chemical tests for alcohol and drug use, field sobriety exercises are voluntary and the driver can refuse to participate.

Contact an Experienced Florida DUI Attorney

If you were arrested for DUI after participating in a field sobriety exercise, it is important that you hire an experienced DUI lawyer to protect your rights. At Florida Law Advisers, P.A. our DUI lawyers use their skill and experience to defend clients in all DUI matters. If you agreed to a field sobriety exercise, we can demand a copy of the videotape prior to trial and review it with you. Our DUI lawyers are well trained in field sobriety tests and can identify errors by the police officer and other grounds to challenge your arrest. If the police officer did not adhere to the required field sobriety guidelines, we may be able to get the results of your field sobriety test thrown out of court and the charges against you dropped.

The 3 Standardized Field Sobriety Tests Used by Florida Police Officers:

One-Leg Stand – The police officer will ask the driver to stand on one foot with the other foot lifted 6 inches off of the ground. The officer will then ask the driver to count out loud by thousands (ex. one thousand and one, one thousand and two…) while maintaining his or her balance. The driver is expected to continue counting until the officer requests him to stop. The One-Leg Stand exercise should last for about 30 seconds.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) – Nystagmus refers to an involuntary jerking motion in the eyes. During the HGN exercise, the police officer will hold an object (usually a pen) in front of the driver and ask the driver to follow the object with his eyes. If the driver is not capable of following the object, or if his eyes begin twitching, this is viewed by police officers as an indication of drug use or intoxication.

Walk & Turn – The police officer will instruct the driver to take several steps in a straight line while touching heel to toe, then turn around and repeat the action in the opposite direction.
In addition to these three exercises, a police officer may request the driver to perform other non-standardized field sobriety exercises. These non-standardized field sobriety exercises can include the finger-to-nose test, counting backwards, recitation of the alphabet, and other balancing exercises.

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