Field Sobriety Tests

St. Petersburg Attorneys Defending the Rights of Drivers

Florida law enforcement officers have many tools to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest, including field sobriety tests. Although field sobriety tests may be unreliable, subjective, and/or incorrectly administered, they are often used to justify an arrest and DUI charge against the driver. At Blake & Dorsten, P.A., our St. Petersburg defense lawyers know that in many cases, it is possible to mount a defense against field sobriety testing. We can defend you against the prosecution and work towards a fair outcome in your DUI case.

Field Sobriety Tests in Florida

Field sobriety tests are used by police to evaluate the coordination and coherence of a suspected drunk driver, as well as any observe physical signs of intoxication. During a DUI stop, the police may ask the driver to step out of their vehicle and perform a series of standardized acts known as field sobriety tests. Unlike a chemical test refusal, which may result in a driver license suspension or other penalties, there is no criminal or civil penalty for declining to perform field sobriety tests. The police have no duty to inform you that field sobriety tests are optional, however, so many drivers agree to take them.

Three standardized field sobriety tests are common in Florida. The first is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, in which the driver is instructed to follow the movement of a pen, finger, or flashlight beam with their eyes. The Walk-and-Turn test requires the driver to walk heel to toe in a straight line, then turn around on one foot, and walk back in the same manner. The last test is the One-Leg Stand, which involves standing on one leg while the other leg is raised six inches off the ground, for thirty seconds. While these tests are performed, the officer will be evaluating the driver’s balance and coordination, as well as the ability to follow directions. If the driver fails a field sobriety test, the officer may request a breathalyzer test.

Defending Against Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests may be used to provide the police with probable cause for a DUI arrest. The state attorney may also offer field sobriety testing as evidence of intoxication when prosecuting a DUI charge against the driver. Field sobriety tests are usually introduced through the testimony of the arresting officer. The officer may testify as to their observations of the defendant’s coordination and ability to complete the tests. In addition, body cam footage and/or dashcam video of the defendant performing field sobriety tests may be offered as evidence in a DUI case.

The defense may object to the admission of field sobriety testing in certain circumstances. An illegal DUI stop, is one example. If the defendant was pulled over by police without a legitimate reason, any evidence obtained afterward, including the performance of field sobriety tests, may not be admissible at trial. In addition, the defense has the opportunity to challenge the credibility of these tests. For instance, if the police officer did not provide the proper instructions to the defendant, or if the test was administered under unreasonable conditions, the defense may argue that the field sobriety tests were inaccurate or biased. Moreover, there may be valid reasons that prevent some people from completing a field sobriety test. If the defendant’s performance was affected by extreme sleep deprivation, a physical limitation due to a medical condition or injury, or other circumstances, the defense may present evidence of that fact to challenge the results of field sobriety tests.

Contact a St. Petersburg DUI Lawyer About Field Sobriety Tests

At Blake & Dorsten, P.A., our St. Petersburg attorneys can provide trustworthy legal advice after a DUI arrest, whether or not it involved field sobriety testing. We handle DUI and drugged driving cases throughout Pinellas County, including Tampa Bay, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg. To request a free consultation with one of our defense attorneys, call 727-286-6141 or contact Blake & Dorsten online.

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