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Understanding Field Sobriety Tests

If you have ever been pulled over at a DUI checkpoint or have been previously been accused of drunk driving, you may be familiar with Florida's Field Sobriety Tests. Even still, it is crucial that you understand the laws surrounding these tests and how you can protect your rights in these types of situations.

While drunk driving laws vary from state to state, most law enforcement officers use the same field Sobriety Tests, also known as FSTs. These tests are used to determine whether an individual is illegally driving while under the influence of alcohol. These tests are basically used to help police establish probable cause for your arrest. However, before they can administer these tests, they must have a reason to pull you over.

What do the tests consist of?

The Field Sobriety Tests are essentially a series of standardized tests that target either physical or cognitive performances. They can only be given to a driver under reasonable suspicion of drunk driving. If you believe an officer violated your rights in asking you take a test, you may be able to take legal action. You also do not have to legally perform any of the tests, though if you refuse, it may result in further charges.

The standardized FSTs include the following:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: An officer will look for involuntary jerking or bouncing of your eyeball, which is often caused by alcohol consumption.
  • One-Leg Stand: This is a divided attention test and will require you to stand with one foot off the ground while counting by thousands.
  • Walk-and-Turn: An officer will ask you to take nine steps, heel to toe, along a straight line. You must then turn one foot and return on the same path.

The officer will be looking for signs, such as improper turns, miscounting, swaying, etc. If an officer believes that it is necessary to use further tests, they may also ask you to perform the Finger-to-Nose Test, the Romberg Alphabet Test, or the Counting Test.

When could I be asked to perform a FSTs?

The officer will need an established reason to pull you over and ask you to perform these tests.

You may encounter these tests in the following types of situations:

  • You were pulled over for a traffic offense or violation
  • You were pulled over for swerving or dangerous driving
  • There is a DUI roadblock or checkpoint
  • You have been in an automobile or roadside accident

Under law, you have the right to refuse any of these tests, however, you may still be charged with DUI. This will limit the amount of evidence a prosecutor can use against you though. Contact our firm if you have more questions about FSTs and protecting your rights in a DUI arrest.