Your friend was pulled over by a police officer suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) and asked to submit to a field sobriety exercise. He was unsure whether he was legally obligated to submit to the exercise and what could happen if he refused. Your friend cooperated, submitted to the exercises, and was later charged with DUI. You’re not sure if you would have complied, but now you have questions about the law.
Though you have the right to refuse to submit to a field sobriety exercise, there are consequences. In this blog post, a DUI lawyer from the Law Offices of R. David Williams, P.A. will explain what you need to know about implied consent and your rights and responsibilities regarding field sobriety exercises in Florida. If you are charged with a DUI, contact us at (954) 522-9997 to schedule your free consultation. We will fight for your rights.
According to Florida Statute 316.1932, you automatically consent to lawful requests for blood, urine, and breath tests (chemical tests) to determine breath and blood alcohol content when you accept the privilege to drive. If you refuse a field sobriety exercise, you may be arrested and asked to submit to a blood, breath or urine test.
There will be immediate penalties for refusing a chemical test, including a one-year driver's license suspension for a first offense. A second or third refusal is considered a misdemeanor and can result in an 18-month license suspension, up to $1,000 in fines, and up to one year in jail. The penalties for refusing may be severe enough to make you worse off than if you submit to a blood, breath or urine test, even though the prosecution will have less concrete evidence of impairment.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed a standardized system for law enforcement to administer field sobriety exercises. Field sobriety exercises are a series of standardized physical and/or cognitive performance tests administered to a driver suspected of DUI to provide law enforcement with more information to make a determination as to whether or not to arrest the driver. The field sobriety exercise results (including the video recordings) will be used as evidence if there is a trial or other related hearing.
Police officers use three standardized field sobriety exercises to assist in determining whether there is probable cause for an arrest for suspicion of DUI. These include the one-leg-stand, walk-and-turn, and horizontal gaze nystagmus tests. There are additional field sobriety exercises that are also used but are not standard tests under NHTSA.
During the one-leg-stand exercise, the police officer will ask you to stand on one foot with your arms to your sides as you count out loud.
The walk-and-turn exercise requires motorists to walk in a straight line by putting one foot directly in front of the other while keeping their arms at their sides. The driver must count each of the first nine steps out loud before turning and taking another nine steps.
The HGN exercise is normally the first evaluation that law enforcement will use to attempt to determine if a driver is impaired. The HGN exercise looks for involuntary twitching or shaking of the eyeball when a person scans his eyes to the side. The officer will hold an object, such as a pen, and ask you to follow the object with your eyes.
The NHTSA has studied the reliability of the HGN exercise since the 1970s. Depending on which NHTSA review is cited, the HGN exercise has an accuracy rate of 77% to 88% in determining a driver’s blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit.
Field sobriety tests are generally considered adequate for determining DUI. Courts have acknowledged field sobriety exercises as sufficient evidence for a probable cause arrest. However, all three field sobriety exercises have flaws.
An experienced DUI defense lawyer may attack a field sobriety exercise by arguing that:
Even if you are sober, a field sobriety exercise can create legal problems for you. Individuals with poor balance, neurological disorders, inner ear infections, and other medical conditions may fail any or all of the field sobriety exercises without having ingested alcohol or drugs. Because the consequences are so severe, it is essential to have legal representation by your side.
Did you submit to a field sobriety exercise before your recent DUI arrest? If so, you need a competent DUI attorney who has represented many clients who found themselves in the same situation. David Williams, criminal defense attorney and founder of the Law Offices of R. David Williams, P.A., has been practicing criminal defense in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and other counties throughout Florida for over 25 years.
Mr. Williams represents clients without judgment and offers personalized criminal defense focused on your unique needs because your defense is personal to him. He understands that we all make mistakes. Let him help you get your life back on track. Call us today at (954) 522-9997, or fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation.
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The information in this blog post (post) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
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