Upon being pulled over by a law enforcement officer or stopped at a DUI checkpoint, an officer may choose to have you undergo one or multiple field sobriety tests. The results of these tests indicate to law enforcement whether or not you should be arrested for DUI and taken in for further testing. Listed below are the most common types of field sobriety tests:
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the one leg stand is a standardized field sobriety test. During this test, the officer will instruct the suspected drunk driver to stand on one foot while the other is around six inches above the ground. The suspect will have to hold this position until the officer directs them to put their foot back down (approximately 30 seconds later). If the suspect sways, has to use their arms to balance, hops around or puts their foot down, the officer will likely assume that the suspect is, in fact, intoxicated.
This is another type of standardized field sobriety test that is considered a divided attention test. These types of tests are relatively simple for unimpaired drivers, but impaired drivers will have some level of difficulty doing two things at once. For this test, the officer will direct the suspect to take nine steps in a straight line forward then turn on one foot and return back the same way. The officer might assume that the driver is intoxicated if they cannot stay in a straight line, appear unbalanced or take the wrong number of steps.
This is also referred to as simply the "HGN" test. Nystagmus refers to the involuntary twitching or jerking of the eye when someone is intoxicated. An intoxicated person's eyes will appear to gaze off to the sides while an unimpaired person can typically control their eye motion to remain straight and concentrated. Intoxication is measured by "clues" which can include jerking and inability to follow an object (like a pen). If this happens more than four times during the HGN test, then the officer might assume that the suspect's BAC is higher than .08 percent.
It is important to remember that implied consent laws only deal with chemical testing such as breath and blood testing. The main purpose of a field sobriety tests is to prove probable cause so that law enforcement officers can take further action. A field sobriety test, if failed, will likely result in being arrested and taken in for further testing.
While a breath or blood test refusal will result in an automatic license suspension, this is not the case with field sobriety tests. Many people actually refuse to take field sobriety tests so they are not wrongfully judged by law enforcement officers. Refusing a field sobriety test will not warrant an automatic license suspension per Florida's implied consent laws.
The problem with field sobriety tests is that they are highly subjective. This means that it is up to an officer's judgment whether or not you appear intoxicated. Unlike a chemical test that evaluates empirical evidence, these tests are subjectively evaluated by the perception of the law enforcement officer. There are many reasons other than intoxication why a person might fail any one of these standardized field sobriety tests. This can include environmental factors, fatigue, physical illness and more.
There is still hope if you failed a field sobriety test! The Tampa DUI lawyers at our firm are skilled in defense tactics and know what it takes to get DUI charges dropped. We even have former prosecutors on our team, which gives us a unique understanding of the opposition that can prove to be in your favor. Take the first step toward your defense and contact Taracks & Associates today to schedule a free case evaluation!