Field Sobriety Tests

Law enforcement use various methods to determine if a person is intoxicated under procedures listed by Florida law. One of these is to ask the driver to undergo one or more field sobriety tests. These are a series of physical exercises designed by the National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration (NHTSA) to measure a person’s mental and physical faculties.

While refusal to submit to a DUI chemical test is an administrative violation, motorists aren’t obligated to submit to field sobriety tests. That is because they aren’t included in implied consent laws, which states it’s an administrative violation to refuse blood, breath or urine testing related to DUI. It’s important to understand if you’ve been charged with DUI that field sobriety tests are inherently flawed procedures that relies too heavily on subjective interpretation by law enforcement.

If you or someone you know has been charged with DUI, it’s important you seek a criminal defense attorney to assist you.

DUI Attorney for Field Sobriety Tests in St. Lucie County, FL

Field sobriety tests aren’t a reliable way to determine if someone is intoxicated or not. If a prosecutor attempts to use information from field sobriety tests against you for DUI, then it’s important you have an attorney with extensive knowledge on the issues regarding field sobriety tests. You can find an attorney who can do exactly that at Meltzer & Bell.

Our criminal defense attorneys aggressively defend clients accused of drunk driving throughout the greater Martin County and St. Lucie County, Florida area. You can set up your first consultation free by calling Meltzer & Bell. You can trust on us to always provide a thorough and honest evaluation of your case. Get started on your defense now and contact Meltzer & Bell.

Overview of Field Sobriety Tests in FL

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What Field Sobriety Tests has been Standardized by NHSTA?

It’s crucial to understand that evidence pulled from field sobriety tests is usually inadmissible. The only time a court will allow evidence from a field sobriety test to be used in a trial is if it’s one of the three field sobriety tests standardized by the National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration.

Listed below are the three standardized field sobriety tests that can be used in a court case.

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Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

The nystagmus is the involuntary jerking of an eye a person may do when they are intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance. Officer utilize HGN tests frequently as it’s considered the most accurate of all three standardized field sobriety tests. However, that doesn’t mean you should completely trust an HGN test to determine a person’s impairment.

The officer will start the test by holding a “stimulus” (some sort of object such as a pen) in front of your face 12 to 15 inches away from your nose, slightly above eye level, and then slowly move it side by side. You will be asked to follow the stimulus’s path with only your eyes and not to move your head. The officer will then look for the following signs of HGN in each eye:

  • Lack of smooth pursuit;
  • Nystagmus at maximum deviation; and
  • Onset of gaze nystagmus prior to 45 degrees.

Numerous outside factors can affect this type of test. Simple environmental factors such as loud noises or inclement weather could easily affect the results. Not to mention the mass amount of medical conditions that could cause HGN.

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Walk-and-Turn (WAT) Test

A walk-and-turn test is a lot like the name says. An officer will ask you to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line. They will then turn on one foot and then return in nine heel-to-toe steps in the opposite direction. When you are performing the test, law enforcement will analyze you closely to see if you are doing any of the following:

  • Stops while walking;
  • Does not touch heel-to-toe;
  • Steps off line;
  • Loses balance during instructions;
  • Starts before instructions are finished;
  • Loses balance while turning/incorrect turn;
  • Cannot perform test; or
  • Uses arms for balance

If you do any of the above, an officer may interpret that as a sign of intoxication. However, it’s been shown that completely sober individuals have struggle completing the WAT successfully. People with certain medical issues, disabilities or handicaps may not be able to physically complete the walk-and-turn test.

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One-Leg Stand (OLS) Test

Officers may ask you to perform a one-leg stand test to test your physical and mental faculties. Law enforcement will ask you to stand on one foot about six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands for 30 seconds. If the officer catches you doing the following during an OLS test, then they may have probable cause for an arrest:

  • Unable to do test;
  • Uses arms for balance;
  • Hopping;
  • Puts foot down;
  • Sways excessively

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Should I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in FL?

Field sobriety tests are used to measure your physical and mental faculties, but it relies heavily on the subjective eye of the officer at the scene. There are no strict guidelines to field sobriety testing and the science behind its accuracy has only been conducted in a few studies by the NHTSA. Most defense attorneys would implore you not to submit to field sobriety testing because there are simply too many factors that could skew your results.

Listed below are some factors that could cause a sober person to fail a field sobriety test.

  • Physical ability;
  • Extreme nerves and anxiety;
  • Eye-to-hand coordination;
  • Slippery roads;
  • Fatigue;
  • Age;
  • The temperature outside;
  • Certain medical conditions;
  • Bad balance;
  • Improperly given instructions;
  • Inclement weather during the stop;
  • The lighting around the stop;
  • Prior injuries;
  • Sleep medication; or
  • Certain shoes such as flip-flops

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Additional Resources

Florida DUI Statute – Visit the official website for the Florida Online Statutes and read their section on traffic crimes. Access the site to learn more about DUI penalties, diversion programs for DUI offenders, field sobriety tests and other important DUI information.

Instructor Guide to Field Sobriety Testing – Visit the official website of the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) to learn more about standardized field sobriety testing and how it’s done. Gain access to the instructor guide for field sobriety testing to learn more about the walk-and-turn, horizonal gaze nystagmus, and one-leg stand.

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Stuart Lawyer for DUI Field Sobriety Tests in Florida

Have you or someone you know been arrested for DUI? You have no time to waste when it comes to your defense. Do what is best for you and your future by hiring experienced legal representation with Meltzer & Bell. We have collectively 20 years of experience we want to utilize for you and your case.

Set up your first appointment at Meltzer & Bell for free at (772) 248-1215. We will overlook every avenue to find the best legal option for your case. Meltzer & Bell fights for clients throughout the greater St. Lucie County and Martin County area including Port St. Lucie, Saint Lucie, Stuart, Palm City and Fort Pierce.

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