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Can You Refuse A Field Sobriety Test in Florida?

Police officer holding a pen and doing a field sobriety test on a motorist.

In Florida, when a police officer suspects drunk driving, they may request you to perform a field sobriety test. Understanding the implications of these tests is crucial if you're stopped by the police or facing DUI charges. Police use field sobriety tests to assess if drivers are impaired. It includes exercises such as:

  • The Walk-and-Turn: This test requires you to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line, turn on one foot, and return in the same manner. An officer will look for an inability to maintain balance, incorrect turning, or taking an incorrect number of steps.
  • One-Leg Stand: In this test, you would be asked to stand with one foot six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands (one thousand-one, one thousand-two, etc.) until you're told to put your foot down. An officer may look for swaying while balancing, using arms to balance, hopping, or putting your foot down.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test: This test involves following an object with your eyes (e.g., a pen or small flashlight) to determine eye movement reaction to stimuli. An officer may look for involuntary jerking of the eyes as you gaze toward the side.

Do I have to perform a field sobriety test in Florida?

Florida law doesn't mandate drivers to complete field sobriety tests, and police officers can't force participation. Despite this, officers may not inform drivers of this right. As a result, many drivers believe that field sobriety tests are mandatory.

Unlike chemical tests (e.g., breathalyzers), you can refuse a field sobriety test without facing direct legal penalties. Your refusal to participate can't be used against you in court. However, this refusal might lead the officer to request a blood alcohol content (BAC) test. Under Florida's Implied Consent Law, BAC tests are mandatory, and refusal to comply can result in serious consequences, including a one-year driver’s license suspension for a first offense and potential jail time for subsequent refusals.

Reasons to refuse a field sobriety test in Florida

If you're stopped by the police and suspected of drunk driving, refusing a field sobriety test can be a wise decision for the following reasons:

  • They're subjective and rely heavily on the police officer's interpretation of performance.
  • There are many factors that can affect your performance (e.g., physical limitations, uneven terrain, and poor lighting).
  • Taking these tests can potentially be incriminating and can be used as evidence in court.

What if I already took a field sobriety test?

If you have failed a field sobriety test and were charged with DUI, don't assume you're out of options. The validity of field sobriety tests is a contentious issue. These tests lack a firm scientific basis linking them to driving impairment. Police officers determine the outcome of these tests, and their judgments can be arbitrary. A driver could potentially pass all exercises and still face arrest, especially if they fail a breath test.

Additionally, nervousness, medical conditions, or natural balance issues could lead to poor performance in sober drivers. This can potentially result in a wrongful arrest. In addition, these tests can be challenged if the officer doesn't administer them properly or provide clear instructions to the person they're testing.

Consult with a Clay County DUI lawyer if you're facing charges

A DUI offense in Florida can carry harsh legal consequences. First-time offenders often face fines from $500 to $2,000, six months in jail, 50 hours of mandatory community service, license revocation, and possible probation. Penalties often increase for first-timers with a BAC level of .15% or higher, or for second or subsequent DUI convictions.

If you find yourself facing a DUI arrest in Northeast Florida, don't hesitate to speak to an experienced DUI defense lawyer at Aguilar & Sieron, P.A. Our DUI defense attorneys have extensive knowledge of Florida's legal system. We'll challenge any questionable evidence and ensure your rights are upheld. Don't take chances if you're arrested for DUI in Florida. Contact us as soon as possible for a legal consultation or call our office in Green Cove Springs.

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