Understanding Florida Field Sobriety Tests

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What Are Field Sobriety Tests?

If you have been stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence, law enforcement may ask you do field sobriety tests. Typically, there are three different exercises that people are asked to do:

  1. Walk & Turn
  2. One-Legged Stand
  3. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

The Walk and Turn exercise is used to study a person’s ability to divide attention.  A person must follow verbal instructions while also doing physical activity. You are instructed to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. After taking nine steps, you must turn on one foot and return in the same manner going back to where you started. A few of the behaviors that law enforcement is looking at include:

  • Were you able to stay balanced?
  • Did you follow instructions?
  • Did you stay on the line?
  • Did you need to use your arms?
  • Did you take the correct number of steps?

The One-Legged Stand is also a divided attention test. You will be instructed to stand one foot approximately six (6) inches off the ground and count aloud, by thousand, until you are told to put your foot down. A few of the behaviors that law enforcement is looking at include:

  • Did you sway?
  • Did you use your arms to balance yourself?
  • Did you put your foot down?

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) occurs when the law enforcement is checking your eyes. The officer is looking for what is called Nystagmus. Nystagmus in involuntary jerking or bouncing of the eyeball where the person has no control over it. Alcohol is a depressant and thus slows the brain’s ability control the eye muscle. Because of the nature of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, criminal defense attorneys often challenge the accuracy of this exercise in court. Some law enforcements officers are Drug Recognition Experts (DRE’s) who have taken more courses than average law enforcement officers and considered better qualified to perform the HGN exercise. Law enforcement officers who are not DRE’s or who have similar specialized training cannot testify for anything more than what average person can testify to in observing a person’s eyes. Walker v. Dep’t of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 13 Fla. L. Weekly Sup. 953 (Fla 9th Cir. Ct. April 19, 2006).

Challenging Field Sobriety Tests

These field sobriety exercises may be challenged based on:

  • Medical Conditions: Having a medical injury may affect the results of these exercises
  • Age: Older individuals may have issues preforming these exercises
  • Weight:  Individuals who are considered overweight may have difficulties preforming these exercises
  • Hearing: The ability to hear may affect you persons ability to follow these instructions
  • Environment: The environment may not be conducive to preforming these exercises

What If I Refuse The Field Sobriety Exercises?

Unlike a breath test, a refusal to do field sobriety exercises does not result in suspension of your license. Refusing to do them proves less evidence for the prosecution to show the jury that person is intoxicated. However, the prosecutor will be able to argue that person knew he or she would perform poorly on the exercises and thus made conscious decision to refuse.

Contact an Experienced Orlando DUI Attorney

If you or someone you know has been arrested for DUI in Orlando or throughout Central Florida, contact Frost Law at (407) 670-5569 for a free consultation and case review by an experienced former prosecutor. Attorney Chad Frost has prosecuted hundreds of DUI cases, giving him the unique advantage of understanding how the prosecution thinks as well as the complexities involved with DUI cases.

Chad Frost
Chad Frost
As a criminal defense attorney, he is proud to handle all kinds of criminal cases and committed to giving his clients the compassionate personal attention and aggressive representation they need to protect their rights and freedoms.