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Field Sobriety Exercises

Law enforcement uses a set of standardized tests to determine if a person is impaired or not. These physical exercises are referred to as field sobriety tests. Officers use these tests and objective evidence to arrest a driver of driving under the influence (DUI). The prosecution can use the test result, footage and notes from the arrest as evidence in court.

Field sobriety tests are by no means perfect. Human error and poorly maintained equipment can lead to skewed results. Some of the criteria in these tests are outside of a person’s physical ability. Additionally, outside stimuli such as traffic, weather or nerves can produce misleading results.

If you or someone you know has refused or submitted to DUI testing, it’s important that you seek trusted legal representation.

DWI Attorney for Field Sobriety Tests in Brevard County, Florida

Police officers must have probable cause to use field sobriety tests. However, field sobriety tests don’t always yield trustworthy results. It’s vital that you know your rights before you submit to any type of DUI testing.

The attorney at Law Offices of Bryan J. McCarthy are skilled in criminal defense. We have handled numerous DUI cases, including ones where clients refused to submit to field sobriety exercises. Find an attorney who’s knowledgeable in DUI logistics at Law Offices of Bryan J. McCarthy.

Law Offices of Bryan J. McCarthy practices law throughout the greater Melbourne area and surrounding communities including Satellite Beach, Titusville, Cocoa Beach, and Palm Bay.

Call now at (321) 248-7742 for a free consultation today.

Overview of Field Sobriety Tests in Florida

  • Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
  • Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
  • Issues with Field Sobriety Tests
  • Should I Refuse Field Sobriety Testing?
  • Additional Resources

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in Melbourne, Florida

The Internet showcases a wide variety of field sobriety tests used by law enforcement. In reality, most officers tend to use the three tests standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). All three field sobriety exercises are valuable to the prosecution since they have been tested by NHTSA.

The following are the three field sobriety tests provided by the NHTSA.

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) – Intoxicated people typically experience an involuntary eye jerking known as nystagmus. Law enforcement uses a test called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) to determine if you’re impaired or not. The test starts by simple holding an object 12 to 15 inches from the driver’s nose. Next, the officer will slowly move the object side to side while the driver is told to keep eye contact with the object. If the officer notices the driver involuntary jerking their eye or has issues tracking the object, he or she may be determined to be intoxicated.
  • Walk-and-Turn (WAT) – Police officers may ask you to perform a walk-and-turn. You will be asked to take nine heel-to-toe steps in a straight line. Once you’ve reached the end, the officer will ask you to turn on one foot and take another nine heel-to-toe steps back. Law enforcement will look for any signs of impairment such as stumbling, falling, swaying or inability to stay on the line.
  • One-Leg Stand (OLS) – A one-leg stand is a lot like how it sounds. Police officers may ask you to stand on one leg about six inches off the ground. Normally, the officer will ask you to count to 30 seconds while performing the test. Drivers who aren’t able to keep balance may be seen as intoxicated.

Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in Brevard County, Florida

Law enforcement usually sticks to standardized tests by the NHTSA to measure impairment. However, some police officer may use additional tests to determine if a person is intoxicated or not. These tests are rarely used in a criminal trial. Unlike the standardized tests, there is no verifiable proof that they can determine a driver’s impairment level.

The following are some common field sobriety tests used by Florida law enforcement agencies.

  • ABC Test – Commonly seen in films and TV shows is the ABC test. A police officer will ask you to recite or write down the alphabet. In some instances, a police officer may even have you recite the alphabet backwards. During the test, officers will look for speech errors, slurred speech, confusion at the task and other signs of intoxication.
  • Finger-to-Nose Test – Police officers use finger-to-nose test to measure your spatial awareness. You may be asked to close your eyes, tilt your head back and touch your nose with your index finger. Then, the officer will ask you to repeat the test three times with each hand. Law enforcement will assess if you are swaying, stumbling or if you’re completely unable to do the test.
  • Number Backwards Test – In some cases, law enforcement may have you perform a mental test. A police officer will ask you to recite a number backwards until they ask you to stop. Signs of impairment an officer may look for are slurred speech or missing numbers.

Issues with Field Sobriety Testing in Brevard County, Florida

While the NHTSA has studied some field sobriety tests, that doesn’t mean they’re flawless. Many sober people have had issues with field sobriety tests at DUI stops. External factors and physical ability can majorly affect a person’s results. Additionally, all field sobriety testing is subjective. Officers may determine you’re impaired when in actuality it’s something else entirely.

The following are some factors that affect a person’s ability to perform field sobriety tests:

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

Should I Refuse Field Sobriety Testing in Florida?

Implied consent laws are associated with chemical testing such as blood, breath or urine analysis. Florida doesn’t incorporate field sobriety testing in implied consent laws. This means you can refuse to complete field sobriety testing at any time with no administrative penalty.

However, refusing field sobriety tests doesn’t happen without complications. Police officers can arrest you if they have probable cause that you’re driving under the influence. You could be booked and held in jail for a certain amount of time. The arrest process can be extremely stressful. Nonetheless, it may be the best decision for you to be temporarily detained.

It’s possible you may be in jail for a short time. However, the prosecution will not have any concrete evidence against you. DUI cases without field sobriety test footage or notes are completely reliant on objective evidence, making your case easier to win. Even if you’re perfectly sober this may be something to consider. Many sober drivers have failed field sobriety tests due to external factors.

Additional Resources

A Florida Validation Study of SFST – Visit a report provided by the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) that outlines a Florida study for field sobriety tests. Find more information on the study’s background, data and statistics from the study and the validity of field sobriety tests.

Florida DUI Laws – Visit the official website for the 2018 Florida Statutes to find more information surrounding DUI offenses. Learn the elements of a DUI, the penalties associated with a DUI, and other related offenses.

Lawyer for Field Sobriety Exercises in Melbourne, Florida

If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI by field sobriety tests, it’s important that you act now. You could face penalties such as large fines and even possible incarceration. Don’t be idle in this process. Get in contact with the attorney at Law Offices of Bryan J. McCarthy today.

The attorney at Law Offices of Bryan J. McCarthy are skilled in criminal defense. With our resources, experience and knowledge we can create a strong defense for you. Call the attorney at (321) 248-7742now to schedule a free consultation. We practice throughout the greater Brevard County area and surrounding counties including Volusia County and Indian River County.

This article was last updated on November 27, 2018.