How Your Field Sobriety Test May Impact Your DUI Prosecution
If you have been pulled over for a suspected DUI, it is likely the police officer asked you to perform various exercises to test your physical and motor skills. These tests are known as field sobriety tests and have been developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with the goal of being standardized, scientifically reliable, and predictive of impairment. The most common field sobriety tests include the walk-and-turn test, the finger-to-nose test, the alphabet test, the one-legged stand test, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
Assuming you have been charged with a DUI, the question becomes whether your field sobriety test results are admissible evidence that the State may use to prove its case against you. Your defense attorney will need to closely analyze the facts surrounding your investigation and arrest because how the police officer approached you and administered the field sobriety tests will answer this question.
Generally, under Florida law, the results of these tests are admissible evidence to prove a defendant was driving under the influence, and specifically, to prove the defendant was impaired. However, there are various objections your defense attorney may be able to raise to having the field sobriety test results admitted as evidence, depending on the unique facts of your case.
The Florida courts have determined that law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion that a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs before they administer field sobriety tests unless the driver voluntary consents to conduct field sobriety tests. Although an officer is generally not required to inform a motorist of his or her right to refuse to perform the field sobriety exercises, other privacy protections under the Fourth Amendment may come into play, depending on how the vehicle and defendant were originally stopped and detained. These can include a court challenge in the form of a motion to suppress the stop of the vehicle or a motion to suppress the evidence due to unlawful detainment or lack of reasonable suspicion of a DUI. Another example is a motion to suppress the field sobriety tests because the officer lacks the training and qualifications to conduct the investigation.
Even if your field sobriety test results are admitted into evidence, whether they are likely to persuade a jury is another story. Although field sobriety tests are often thought of as scientifically sound, there are numerous challenges to their reliability that a skilled DUI defense attorney can use to cast doubt on the reliability of their field sobriety test results.
If you have questions about defending your DUI charge, do not hesitate to contact St. Petersburg driving under the influence defense attorneys at Rooth Law Group today for a free consultation.