Field Sobriety Tests - What Are They And Should You Take Them?

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If a police officer suspects you of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he can ask you to submit to a series of Field Sobriety Tests. There is no requirement in Florida that you submit to these roadside exercises. I would strongly suggest that one not take the tests unless there is a video and audio recording of said tests.

These tests are intended to help officers determine whether they have reasonable cause to arrest the driver on suspicion of a DUI offense. However, there are a variety of innocent reasons as to why one may not do well on tests.

The roadside tests are designed to determine cognitive ability. To avoid inconsistency, the tests have been standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some examples of tests include:

  • Walking a short distance in a straight line ? The standard version of this test involves responding to detailed directions. The officer will tell you to take nine steps up and back, heel to toe, on a straight line, and how to turn. The officer will be checking whether the subject can understand the instructions easily as well as whether the person can actually walk straight, touches heel to toe, keeps his arms to his side, and keeps his balance.
  • Horizontal gaze test ? This involves staring straight ahead while an officer moves an object across your line of vision. The point at which the suspect’s eyes twitch may provide grounds for the officer to determine reasonable cause for DUI.
  • Standing on one leg ? Usually required for about 30 seconds, a suspect is asked to stand on one leg and raise the other leg six inches or so off the ground while looking at his foot and keeping his arms to his side.

None of these tests are in any way conclusive and the ability to perform them adequately can be affected as much by the nervousness of being stopped by a police officer or natural physical limitations. The officer has the subjective responsibility to determine if the suspect's normal faculties are impaired. It really is all based on the officer's "opinion."

Posted in DUI Defense

Tagged driving under the influence, DUI defense, field sobriety tests