Florida Field Sobriety Test
Overall, the number of DUI convictions and arrests have decreased in the state of Florida. However, there are still more than 55,000 DUI-related tickets written each year. Which is still far too many. While the inherent dangers of driving under the influence are well-known thanks to aggressive media campaigns and severe consequences attributed to the offense, the data suggests that more than 70 percent of those who drink will still drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol at least once (and likely more). With this in mind, it can be absolutely terrifying if you are pulled over for a traffic offense after you have had a few drinks in your system. This situation can be stress-inducing and cause those who are suspected of driving while under the influence to make ill-advised decisions when interacting with law enforcement officials.
One such decision that you will be tasked with making is whether or not you should take a field sobriety test. Most citizens are not comfortable with rejecting an officer’s request to perform one. However, in many cases, it is in your best interest to politely decline. After all, a field sobriety test is designed for participants to fail. Whether you have already taken a field sobriety test (FST) or refused one, it is recommended that you connect with a DUI lawyer in Orlando to represent you in your case. Attorney Rahul Parikh is a former DUI prosecutor with law enforcement training for DUIs.
What Are Field Sobriety Tests
Long before chemical tests were widely available, field sobriety tests were used by police officers to determine if a driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Technology has certainly advanced since those times, but field sobriety tests are still legal methods of obtaining evidence of intoxication. A field sobriety test is more subjective than it is scientific. In many cases, it is up to the police officer to determine if you passed or failed. In general, law enforcement agencies use three approved methods of conducting an FST (they can use other types if they choose). Listed below are the three most common FST’s administered in the field.
- Horizontal Gaze: The horizontal gaze test begins with an officer requesting that you follow a pen, flashlight beam, or their finger with your eyes (without moving your head). The police officer is trained to look for unnecessary or involuntary movements of your eyes as you follow the object in your gaze. The “jerky” movements in your eyes that officers are looking for is called “Nystagmus” which can happen when a person is intoxicated. However, this can also occur in those who have a disease or naturally. HGN is only allowed into evidence if the officer is a qualified expert, known as a Drug Recognition Expert or DRE in Florida.
- Walk and Turn: If you have seen an episode of “Cops” you have likely seen this method of field sobriety test administered. This test requires participants to walk in a straight line (one foot in front of the other) and return to their starting destination in the same manner. During the tests, officers are looking for your ability to maintain balance, follow directions, etc. Many otherwise sober people fail this test due to lack of balance, inclement weather conditions, uneven ground, etc.
- One-Leg Stand: If you have ever tried to tie your shoe while standing on one foot, then you know how difficult this test can be for anyone. The one-leg stand test requires participants to stand on one foot, keeping the other foot six inches off of the ground, and count for roughly 30 seconds. Law enforcement officials are looking for your ability to maintain balance, concentrate, as well as follow directions.
While the aforementioned “standard” FST’s are approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), police officers can use other “non-standard” tests. Examples can include reciting the alphabet backward, count backward, and/or tilt your head back while closing your eyes and touching your nose.
What Happens if You Fail a Field Sobriety Test
In general, since field sobriety tests are not scientific in nature, they are not considered strong enough evidence to convict a driver of a DUI offense. In most cases, if you fail a field sobriety test, officers will request that you take a breathalyzer test. This test is far more effective (though not 100 percent accurate) and if failed will lead to an arrest as well as a bevy of other potential consequences.
Can You Refuse a Field Sobriety Exercise of Field Sobriety Test?
In short, yes. It may be uncomfortable to deny an officer’s request, but you have the right to deny a field sobriety test. In fact, if you do refuse, officers cannot arrest you for a DUI and your license will not be suspended (based off of a refusal alone). Unfortunately, most law enforcement officials will not tell you that you have the right to deny the test. In many cases, the field sobriety test is designed so that law enforcement can request that you take a breathalyzer afterward (if they don’t have other evidence of intoxication to suggest that you are above the legal drinking limit). You will not be able to contact your DUI lawyer in Orlando before an FSE is administered. Thus, it is imperative that you know your rights and politely decline requests for field sobriety tests.
Parikh Law – Your DUI Lawyer in Orlando
If you have been arrested for a DUI offense in Florida, it is in your best interest to connect with a proven DUI lawyer in Orlando. This is true whether or not you participated in a field sobriety test. DUI convictions carry with them severe penalties to include criminal records, suspended license, fines, and a bevy of other long-lasting consequences that will undoubtedly have a profound effect on your life. Working with an experienced attorney can improve the likelihood of having your case dismissed, charges decreased, and/or lessened penalties. Attorney Rahul Parikh is a former DUI prosecutor with law enforcement training regarding DUI investigations. At Parikh Law, we go the extra mile to fight for our clients while ensuring that their rights have not been violated. Do not face the potential consequences of a DUI charge alone, work with a proven and trusted Orlando DUI attorney.