DUI Defense Strategy - Field Sobriety Tests

Asked to Peform a Field Sobriety Test in South Florida? DUI Attorney Lawrence B. Wolk Says It May Be a Key Component of Your Drunk Driving Defense

No one puts a key in the ignition expecting to be pulled over for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but it happens all the time. When you're stopped, the police officer will evaluate your overall appearance and demeanor. If he suspects you of driving under the influence - such as detecting the scent alcohol, finding an open container in your vehicle or if you appear to be disoriented, unsteady on your feet, confused, agitated or slurring your speech - you may be asked to submit to a number of tests to evaluate your sobriety.

Among the most controversial of these examinations is the field sobriety test - a physical task thaht a police officer may ask you to perform so that your mind-body condition can be evaluated. Based on his opinion of your performance, you can be arrested and charged with DUI.

The most common field sobriety tests are:

  • Horizontal and Vertical Gaze.In this test, an object, such as a pen or a finger, will be held about a foot from your face and you'll be asked to follow its movement with your eyes. If you're unable to track the object or if your eyeball has an involuntary jerking movement, that may be evidence of alcohol in your system.
  • Standing on One Leg.You'll be asked to stand, with your heels touching and arms hanging at your sides, and raise one leg about six inches from the ground while counting aloud. If you raise your arms, sway, hop or put your foot down, you will fail the test, no matter how long you're asked to hold your leg up.
  • Finger to Nose.The police officer will observe you as you stand, eyes closed, feet together and touch your index finger to your nose, watching for muscle tension, physical imbalance and eyelid tremors.
  • Walking the Line.You're asked to take a specified number of heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn and make the same number of steps in the opposite direction, while maintaining your balance.
  • Modified Position of Attention.Standing with your arms at your sides and your feet together, you're asked to close your eyes and tilt your head backwards, while a police officer evaluates your physical stability and eye movements.

It doesn't take an expert to know that all of these sorts of tests can be highly subjective. Nervousness, age, illness, physical fitness, unclear instructions and even weather conditions can affect the outcome of each and every common field sobriety test. On top of that, whether you pass or fail a test is dependent entirely upon a police officer's personal opinion of your performance.

Unlike chemical blood alcohol content tests like the breathalyzer, Florida drivers are under no legal obligation to partake in field sobriety tests. If you're pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, you're legally entitled to politely refuse to take one. You won't face an automatic one-year suspension of your license for your refusal, as you would for the refusal to take a chemical blood alcohol content test.

As you might imagine, field sobriety tests are among the least reliable types of evidence used to convict an individual of DUI. If you were arrested after such an evaluation, contact the Law Offices of Lawrence B. Wolk & Associate at (888) 965-5529 for a free evaluation of your DUI case.