In Focus: Challenging the Results of Field Sobriety Tests

  • Jun 6 2018

In Florida, the first thing to know about field sobriety tests is that they are not “tests” but “exercises.”  Florida courts recognize there is nothing scientific about the field sobriety exercises so in court they are referred to appropriately as exercises. Nonetheless, field sobriety exercises are often used by law enforcement to determine whether a person has been driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. While being pulled over and arrested for DUI is an unsettling experience, you can refuse to perform the field sobriety exercises. Moreover, because field sobriety results are based on the subjective observations of the arresting officer, the results can be challenged based on a number of factors.

How are Field Sobriety Exercises Conducted?

The most common standardized field sobriety exercises include:

  • One Leg Stand — The driver is instructed to raise one leg six inches off of the ground, look at the raised foot and count out loud until instructed to stop, to determine if the driver’s balance is affected by impairment.
  • Walk and Turn — The driver is instructed to take nine heel to toe steps along a straight line, turn and repeat all while looking at your feet and keeping your arms by your side.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) — The officer observes how the driver’s eyes react to external stimuli such as following a pen with your eyes without moving your head.

How can I challenge the results of a field sobriety exercise?

If you have been charged with DUI based on the results of field sobriety exercises, this does not mean that a conviction is inevitable. Because these are subjective exercises that are subject to human error, the results can be challenged in a number of ways.

First, it may be possible to question the training and experience of the police officer who administered the exercise. If the officer improperly administered the exercise, then the results may be flawed. Additionally, having a physical condition, such as a disability, ear infection, vision problems, or other issues affecting equilibrium and balance, may skew field sobriety exercise results.

Finally, the officer must provide proper instructions on how to perform the exercise, and also consider the lighting, terrain, and relevant weather conditions at the time the exercise is being administered. If the police provide inadequate instructions or the road is poorly lit or uneven, the results of the field sobriety exercise can be challenged.

The Takeaway

In the end, being charged with DUI is serious matter because a conviction can lead to a loss of your driving privileges, fines, and, depending on the circumstances, imprisonment. When it comes to challenging field sobriety exercise, it is crucial to enlist the services of an experienced DUI defense attorney.

Posted in: Criminal, DUI