Florida’s implied consent law requires drivers to agree to be tested if an officer suspects the driver may have been drinking excessively. But what about the series of tasks and exercises an officer may ask you to perform on the side of the road – should you agree to those or can you refuse without facing consequences? Our St. Pete DUI attorneys weigh in on Florida field sobriety tests and what you can do if asked to perform one.
What Are the Most Common Field Sobriety Exercises Administered by Police?
Field sobriety tests or FSEs are a series of tasks designed to evaluate whether a person is sober and in full control of their capacities, or if they are impaired after ingesting alcoholic drinks or illicit drugs. The first exercise is referred to as HGN or Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, designed to detect horizontal jerking or irregular eyeball movements resulting from being intoxicated.
Next, you may be asked to do a one-leg stand to show you have good balance. After that, you may be asked to do a walk-and-turn test in which you must take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn around using one foot and come back in the same manner. There is also the finger-to-nose test, in which you are asked to close your eyes, tilt your head back and use the tip of your index finger to touch your nose multiple times. Finally, the Romberg alphabet test requires you to recite the alphabet in order without singing or rhyming.
Are Field Sobriety Exercises a Reliable Way of Determining if Someone Is Impaired?
Field sobriety tests are very subjective, and may leave a wide margin for errors. They are designed to assess whether someone is in full possession of their normal faculties or not. According to Florida Motor Vehicle Laws, “normal faculties include (…) the ability to see, hear, walk, talk, judge distances, drive an automobile, make judgments, act in emergencies, and (…) normally perform the many mental and physical acts of daily life.”
In reality, most people don’t routinely perform tasks such as balancing on one foot, or closing their eyes and touching their nose. The tasks in the FSEs aren’t necessarily testing one’s ability to “perform the many mental and physical acts of daily life”, and results may be skewed by many factors that are not indicative of one’s BAC.
Can I Be Arrested for a DUI for Failing a Field Sobriety Test Even if I Am Sober?
Unfortunately, law enforcement can arrest someone for DUI after failing a field sobriety test – even if they are sober. A breathalyzer test may later allow the driver to show their innocence, but not without causing a lot of headaches and resulting in a possible arrest record.
There are many research studies showing that sober individuals with certain medical or physical conditions may fail an FSE without ever having ingested any alcohol.
Can I Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test in Florida Without Getting a Suspension?
Florida’s implied consent laws only apply to drivers who refuse to comply with a request for having their blood alcohol content measured through a breathalyzer test, blood or urine test. Those drivers will face an automatic year-long suspension of their license. There is no law that says you will face any consequences for refusing to take an FSE. You are better off politely declining to take FSEs, and you won’t have your license suspended for doing so.
If you are being accused of a DUI and have questions about the legality of your charges, it is best to work with a St. Pete DUI attorney who knows how to fight back. Contact our office for a free case evaluation to learn your options.