Field Sobriety Tests

Palm Beach DUI Defense Lawyer

If you are pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the officer may ask you to submit to a field sobriety test. Field sobriety testing is conducted on the scene to expose lack of coordination and other physical signs of intoxication. If you have been arrested for DUI after participating in or refusing to participate in a field sobriety test, you should consult with a Florida DUI attorney immediately.

Tests

Florida uses three standardized tests developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Twalk-and-turn test
  • The one-leg stand test
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test

Officers may administer other tests, including the finger-to-nose, alphabet, counting, and balance tests. Often, the tests will be videotaped.

The walk-and-turn test is designed to determine whether the driver can perform physical tasks while following verbal instructions, and assess divided attention abilities. The officer will ask the driver to take nine steps, heel to toe, along a straight line, then turn on one foot and go back the same way. Officers will watch for factors regarding balance and the ability to follow instructions correctly.

In the one-leg stand test, the driver is asked to stand with one foot about six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands, until he or she is told to put the foot down, which the officer will do after thirty seconds. The officer assesses the driver for balance issues.

In the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the officer checks the driver’s eyes for nystagmus, which is an involuntary jerking of the eyeball. The officer has the driver follow an object with his or her eyes, and then watches for a jerking motion of the eyeball, which indicates intoxication.

Officers can arrest a driver for DUI based on the field sobriety tests. The driver will then be required to submit to chemical testing, which is generally a breathalyzer.

Refusing to Submit

No law requires Florida drivers to submit to field sobriety testing. Refusal will not result in driver’s license suspension. Florida law does not permit officers to mislead drivers into believing that compliance is required. There is no affirmative duty to inform drivers that they do not have to submit.

Refusing to submit to field testing may indicate that the driver has something to hide and can be used as evidence of guilt for the jury. There are reasons other than intoxication that may cause a person to fail a field sobriety test, even when totally sober. For example, medical conditions, fatigue, nervousness, weather conditions, or language barriers may result in failure.

Because field testing is a physical test, not testimony, it is not subject to Miranda rights, and officers do not have to warn drivers that they have the right to remain silent. However, requiring a driver to recite the alphabet or numbers does constitute testimony, and so the right against self-incrimination applies. Additionally, alphabet or numbers testing constitutes an interrogation, so Miranda rights also apply.

If you were arrested for DUI after failing a field sobriety test, an experienced lawyer can help you protect your rights. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein to schedule a free initial consultation.