Police officers who pull people over on suspicion of driving under the influence in Florida may subject those people to various “voluntary field sobriety exercises.” These exercises are conducted in addition to breathalyzer testing and potentially blood or saliva testing to assess impairment. While participating in field sobriety exercises (FSEs) is not strictly required by law, refusing to do so can very often result in automatic administrative sanctions, which may include a lengthy driver’s license suspension.
Police officers generally use field sobriety exercises as evidence to support their “probable cause” to arrest you for DUI, but failing FSEs does not mean that your case is over. There are always defenses that an expert DUI lawyer can present on your behalf. Being familiar with the common field sobriety exercises in South Florida can help you better understand the charges you are facing. Here are some of the most common FSEs that police typically use during DUI stops.
The horizontal gaze nystagmus FSE involves an officer telling the person being tested to stand still and follow the tip of a pen or small flashlight the officer moves back and forth in front of them, using only their eyes and not moving their head or body. This is meant to test for signs of “nystagmus,” which is rapid involuntary back-and-forth movement of the eyes that can indicate impairment from alcohol. However, it can also stem from various medical conditions that have nothing to do with alcohol or drug use, which is a point that a Fort Lauderdale attorney can assert in court.
During the walk and turn field sobriety test, a South Florida police officer will instruct the person being tested to stand on a painted or imaginary line with one foot directly in front of the other so that the toe of one shoe is touching the heel of the other. After doing this for several seconds, the officer will then instruct the person being tested to take nine steps—walking heel-to-toe—along the line, turn around in a way specified by the officer, and return to their starting position by walking in the same way.
The finger-to-nose field sobriety exercise is another FSE that works more or less exactly the way it sounds. With their eyes closed, head tilted back, and arms by their sides, the person being tested will be instructed to touch the index finger of their left or right hand—depending on which hand the police officer tells them to move—to the very tip of their nose. Missing the center of the nose by even a few millimeters can be interpreted as evidence of impairment, as can swaying in place or losing balance during the test.
One of the hardest FSEs commonly used by South Florida police officers is the one-leg stand, which involves the person being tested standing on either their left or right leg with their other foot held six inches off the ground for 30 seconds while also keeping their hands at their side and counting out loud. This can be challenging even for sober people in good physical condition, so a skilled DUI defense lawyer can often help effectively contest arrests based partially or mainly on performance in this test.
One more uncommon test for police officers to perform during Fort Lauderdale DUI stops is the modified Romberg test, during which the person being tested must stand with their eyes closed and head tilted back, count down 30 seconds inside their head, and tilt their head forward and say “stop” once they think 30 seconds have passed. There are also alternatives to tests like the walk and turn for people who are in wheelchairs or otherwise unable to walk under their own power for reasons other than intoxication.
Many of the standard FSEs are tough to perform even when sober. If you were arrested after a field sobriety exercise in South Florida, do not wait to get legal help. Our expert team at Rossen Law Firm is prepared to build a strong defense on your behalf. Schedule your strategy session with an award-winning lawyer today.
Rossen Law Firm’s legal team understands what’s at stake when you’re charged with a crime in South Florida. We’re committed to defending you and protecting your rights. Our legal team is ready to create a customized strategy for your case to fight for the best possible outcome. We handle Criminal, DUI, Federal, Domestic Violence, Marchman Act & Baker Act cases, and more.
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