Field Sobriety Testing
Most everyone is familiar with the field sobriety tests used by law enforcement. If you are stopped for a DUI, these tests may be used to determine if you have exceeded the legal blood alcohol limit in Florida. If the officer believes that you have failed one or all of these tests, this will give them probable cause to arrest you.
In many situations, it is the mere perception that an accused drunk driver failed the tests that leads to a conviction.
It would be easy to assume that failing a field sobriety test means you will be found guilty. However, it is more likely that the law enforcement officer incorrectly explained, demonstrated, or administered the tests. A serious South Florida criminal defense attorney like Evan A. Hoffman, of The Hoffman Firm, could ask the officer in court to explain the scientific validity of these tests.
Most would be unable to do so. If you were arrested after failing a field sobriety test, you have options. Call The Hoffman Firm at (305) 249-0090 for a free consultation to discuss your next steps. The Hoffman Firm represents clients from Miami-Dade County, North Miami, and surrounding counties.
- What are some commonly administered field sobriety tests?
- What are the penalties attached to a conviction for driving under the influence?
- What are some problems associated with the use of field sobriety tests?
- Where can I find more information on field sobriety testing?
Common Types of Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests, or exercises, are considered “divided attention exercises.” They test an individual’s ability to listen to and comprehend what is being asked of the individual and the actual ability to perform the exercises as instructed. Some of the most commonly tested field sobriety exercises include the following:
Finger to Nose- For this test, a law enforcement agent will instruct the test taker to close his or her eyes, tilt his head backward, and touch the tip of his or her nose with one finger. The agent may require the test taker to repeat this action several times in order to observe the individual’s fluidity while performing the act.
Any irregular eye movement, imbalance, lack of coordination, or other cues indicating intoxication will be noted.
One Leg Stand- For this test, a law enforcement agent will instruct the test taker to lift one leg off of the ground approximately six inches. With both arms straight and one foot raised, the test-taker will be required to count until stopped by the agent.
As the test-taker performs these tasks, the agent will take note of any irregular lack of coordination, swaying, slurred speech, or any other signs of intoxication.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus HGN test– While keeping their head steady and using their eyes alone, test takers must follow the administrator’s movement of an object 12-15 inches in front of the test taker’s nose. The administrator will take note of any delayed or jerked eye movement, and lack of the ability to keep one’s head steady.
Before conducting this test, an administrator is required to examine the test taker’s eye movement, any eye conditions, or other prohibiting facts which would affect the test’s accuracy. The reasoning behind this test is that certain drug and alcohol use will result in an individual’s inability to exert proper control of his or her eyes.
This lack of control will result in uncontrollable eye jerking—nystagmus—which affects a person’s ability to properly operate a motor vehicle.
Walk and Turn- During a walk and turn test, an administrator will give the proper instructions to the test taker and ask for confirmation from the test taker that the instructions were clear.
After the test taker is given proper instructions, he or she must walk heel-to-toe in a straight line, with arms lowered, to a specific point. Once the point is reached, and while remaining in a straight line, the test taker must turn around and walk heel-to-toe to the point of origin. An administrator will make note of any display of poor coordination, balance, inability to keep one’s arms stable, or any other signs of intoxication.
Penalties for a DUI/DWI Conviction
For a first-time offender convicted of driving under the influence, the penalties will vary based on the amount in which the person exceeded the legal limit, whether they damaged property or injured another person, and various other factors.
Penalties for exceeding the blood alcohol content by 0.08 or higher include the following:
- A maximum of six months jail time;
- A maximum of $1,000 in fines;
- Mandated community service;
- Loss of your vehicle;
- Up to one year of probation;
- Or up to six months of ignition interlock installation.
These penalties will increase with the level of intoxication, third-party injury, and other important factors.
Problems with Field Sobriety Tests
Unfortunately, many factors can result in a false indication of inebriation during these tests, including a physical or mental condition, fatigue or even the weather conditions at the time of the arrest.
Similarly, some officers may mistakenly read certain behavior caused by nerves or anxiety as a sign of intoxication or drug usage. They may also mistakenly believe that a person is above the legal limit despite, the test taker being within the legal limit. If you believe these or other factors occurred in your case, a reduction of the DUI charge against you or dismissal might be possible.
More Information on Field Sobriety Tests
Florida Department of Transportation- Search this site for information on impaired driving, consequences, and enforcement of Florida’s DUI laws.
Recovery.org- This organization provides information on rehabilitation for those battling alcohol and drug addiction.
The Hoffman Firm’s experience and resources come into play while evaluating each client’s case. If you have failed a field sobriety test, you may be facing severe penalties for driving under the influence. Avoiding these penalties requires a criminal defense attorney with experience.
Time is of the essence when your rights are in jeopardy. To fight your DUI charges, or to challenge the validity of a test, contact The Hoffman Firm at (305) 249-0090 to schedule your free consultation today. This firm operates out of Miami-Dade County and serves clients in Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and neighboring counties.