Did You Fail a Field Sobriety Test in Fort Lauderdale?
Defense from Our DUI Attorney Serving Broward County
When it comes to stopping, questioning, and arresting motorists suspected of driving under the influence (DUI), law enforcement has the obligation to ensure they are doing so with justification. In order to establish this, they collect evidence that can be used against a driver to convict them in court, such as evidence of their driving behavior (swerving), statements made when being questioned, breathalyzer results, and physical signs of impairment. Although police can infer impairment by looking at a driver and paying attention to how they speak, they may also use field sobriety tests (FSTs) to collect additional evidence that can be used to support an arrest or conviction.
Field sobriety tests are a battery of tests law enforcement officers typically ask motorists to perform when they are stopped under suspicion of DUI. While many people believe these tests are mandatory, they are not. You do not have to take a field sobriety test when stopped for DUI, and it is a wise decision to refuse them. Field sobriety tests are designed to provide police with more time to find evidence that can be used against a driver, and they are not an objective or accurate indicator of impairment. They cannot help you, and they should be avoided.
Unfortunately, most DUI suspects do take field sobriety tests, and they often wonder how their performance on these tests play a role in their case. At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., our Fort Lauderdale DUI lawyers represent numerous clients who took sobriety tests during a DUI stop, and we know how to address these issues and effectively challenge them in court.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
While some law enforcement agencies may administer different tests to drivers, most use a group of three primary roadside tests known as Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. These tests are admissible evidence in most states, and they include the following:
- Walk and turn test – The walk-and-turn test involves walking in a straight line for a number of steps specified by the law enforcement officer. After taking the steps, suspects will be required to turn on one foot and walk in a straight line back to where they started. This test allows police to monitor suspects for signs of impairment, particularly those that relate to balance.
- One leg stand test – Similar to the walk and turn test, the one leg stand test is an evaluation of a person’s balance. This test involves a suspect standing with their foot slightly above the ground. A law enforcement officer will ask the suspect to count to 30, and will also monitor the time.
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test – This test allows a law enforcement officer to monitor for signs of involuntary eye movement that occurs when a person tracks an object at peripheral angles. With alcohol impairment, a person is more likely to exhibit horizontal gaze nystagmus or involuntary eye jerking.
Although these tests are standardized evaluations used by law enforcement throughout Florida and the country, they are not definitive measurements of a person’s impairment. For example, physical disabilities or injuries can compromise a person’s ability to successfully perform these tests. Roadway and environmental conditions can also impact a suspect’s ability to successfully perform the walk and turn test or the one leg stand test.
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As former Florida prosecutors, our attorneys at Hager & Schwartz, P.A. have insight into the evidence law enforcement officers collect during DUI stops and the weight they hold when a suspect is prosecuted in a court of law. With this knowledge, they can effectively find ways to challenge field sobriety tests and refute them as evidence. This is part of the overall defense strategy that aims to dispute the government’s version of the facts against a defendant.
If you have questions about a DUI charge in Fort Lauderdale or any of the surrounding communities of South Florida, our criminal defense attorneys are available 24/7 to help. Contact us for a free consultation.