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FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS:

REFUSING THE TEST

Standard Field Sobriety Tests are used in Clearwater when police believe that a person is driving while under the influence of alcohol or a chemical substance. These tests are used to assess impairment of the driver and to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. The Field Sobriety Tests are not required by Florida law and thus a person can refuse to take them without the risk of additional penalties. If a person refuses to complete the test, the police will inform the driver that refusal to take the tests will be used in court. However, because the tests are not mandatory and sometimes the reliability of the tests is questionable, the negative consequences of refusing to perform can outweigh the damaging effects of actually taking the tests. If you have questions regarding this defense and how it can apply to your Clearwater DUI case, call our office today at 727-222-3610.

TAKING THE TESTS

Often times, a driver suspected of DUI will agree to perform the Standard Field Sobriety Tests. There are three (3) standard tests commonly used in Clearwater by the Clearwater Police Department , Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol. These tests are:

  • 1. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test,
  • 2. The Walk-and-Turn (WAT) exercise, and
  • 3. The One Leg Stand (OLS) exercise.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) created guidelines for law enforcement agencies to carry out these tests. The NHTSA also conducted studies on the validity and accuracy of the tests.

The first test usually administered during a DUI stop in Clearwater is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. This test looks at the natural involuntary jerking movement of the human eye. During this field sobriety test, an officer moves a small object in front of the suspect’s field of vision to look for the following three clues of impairment in each eye: (1) the eye cannot follow a small object smoothly, (2) distinct jerking of the eye at maximum deviation, and (3) the onset of involuntary jerking prior to forty-five degrees of the center. If four of these clues are found between both eyes, research suggests that there is a high probability that the suspect has a breath alcohol level of 0.10, which is above the legal limit. Research has further suggested that the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test is 77% accurate at proving a DUI. However, other factors could cause the eye to move about in this manner. These factors include medications taken for seizures or other depressants, as well as, rotating or strobe lights present during the test. Similarly, incorrect testing procedures, such as distance of the object to the eye, could comprise the results and reliability of the test.

The other two common field sobriety tests used for a Clearwater DUI are categorized as ‘divided attention’ tasks. ‘Divided attention’ tasks require simultaneous use of the mind and the physical body. These tasks require the person to perform simple physical movements while using the mind to listen and process instructions. Although these tasks are easy for a sober person, they prove to be quite difficult for a person that is intoxicated.

The first ‘divided attention’ task used for a Clearwater DUI is the Walk-and-Turn exercise. This exercise requires the suspect to walk in a straight line for nine steps touching heel to toe, conduct a one-footed turn and return in the same manner. When conducting this test, the police are looking for 8 different clues to determine impairment. These 8 clues are: (1) the inability to maintain balance while listening to instructions, (2) starting the exercise before completion of the instructions, (3) stopping while walking to regain balance, (4) failing to touch heel to toe, (5) failing to walk on the line, (6) using arms for balance, (7) improperly turning, and (8) doing an incorrect number of steps. NHTSA research suggests that failure to adequately perform two or more of these clues indicates a 68% probability of breath alcohol level of 0.10.

The second commonly used ‘divided attention’ task for DUI in Clearwater is the One Leg Stand exercise. This exercise requires the suspect to raise one foot approximately 6 inches off the ground, while keeping both hands down to the sides. The suspect is then asked to simultaneously count by the thousands. During this test the officer is looking for four clues. The clues are: (1) the suspect sways while balancing, (2) the suspect uses arms for balance, (3) the suspect hops, and (4) the suspect puts the raised foot down. The research suggests that failure to complete this test or the presence of two or more of the clues indicates a 68% chance of a breath alcohol level of 0.10.

Many factors can influence the ability to conduct the ‘divided attention’ tasks, such as the surface of the road, back and leg problems and even the weight of the person being tested. If you paraded around for the police in Clearwater, call our experienced attorneys immediately at 727- 222-3610 to start your defense.

 

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Clearwater DUI Office Address (Satellite Office):
4500 140th Avenue North, Suite 101
Clearwater, FL 33762

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