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Perhaps while driving along one night, you were pulled over by a police officer on suspicion of DUI and failed one or more field sobriety tests but passed a breath or blood test. Did you know that you may still face DUI charges? In Florida, a driver may face DUI charges for having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or above (as evidenced by a breath or blood test) or for driving “under the influence” of alcohol or a controlled substance (as evidenced by field sobriety tests.)

To be considered as being under the influence, a driver’s normal capabilities would need to be impaired due to the effects of alcohol and/or drugs. One of the preliminary tests to determine this level of impairment is called a field sobriety test.

What is a Field Sobriety Test?

Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) are crucial tools used by law enforcement officers in Florida to assess a driver’s level of impairment due to alcohol or drugs. Three standardized tests are commonly used: the Walk and Turn, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, and the One Leg Stand. Each test has specific administration procedures and indicators of impairment.

Walk and Turn Test

This test assesses a driver’s ability to complete tasks requiring attention, balance, and coordination. The officer instructs the driver to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn on one foot, and return in the same manner. The driver must listen to and follow instructions while performing the task.

The officer looks for signs of impairment, such as inability to balance during instructions, starting before instructions are finished, stopping while walking, not touching heel-to-toe, stepping off the line, using arms to balance, making an improper turn, or taking an incorrect number of steps.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test

The HGN test is designed to observe the involuntary jerking of the eyeball, which can be exaggerated by alcohol consumption.

The officer asks the driver to follow an object, usually a pen or flashlight, with their eyes. As the object moves, the officer watches the driver’s eyes as they follow the moving object.

Indicators of impairment include the inability to smoothly follow the object, distinct nystagmus (jerking) when the eye is at maximum deviation, and the angle at which nystagmus is first noticeable. Typically, an earlier onset of nystagmus indicates higher impairment.

One Leg Stand Test

This test measures balance, coordination, and the ability to follow instructions.

The driver is instructed to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands (one thousand-one, one thousand-two, etc.) for 30 seconds.

Signs of impairment include swaying while balancing, using arms to balance, hopping to maintain balance, and putting the foot down.

While these tests are designed to gauge impairment, numerous factors unrelated to alcohol or drug use can influence their outcomes. Understanding these tests’ administration and assessment criteria is crucial for anyone facing DUI charges based on Field Sobriety Test results in Florida.

How Will a DUI Defense Attorney Help Challenge a Failed Field Sobriety Test?

An experienced DUI attorney plays a critical role in defending against drunk driving charges, particularly in cases where you have failed field sobriety tests. Their expertise and knowledge of DUI law and field sobriety test procedures enable them to challenge the validity and accuracy of these tests effectively. Here’s how they might approach your defense:

An attorney can scrutinize whether the field sobriety tests were administered correctly. Law enforcement officers must follow strict protocols when conducting these tests. Any deviation from standard procedure, such as improper instructions or conducting tests in unsuitable conditions (like on an uneven surface), can affect the reliability of the results. An attorney can argue that these procedural errors invalidate the test outcomes.

Numerous factors other than alcohol consumption can affect performance on field sobriety tests. An attorney can bring attention to these factors, such as medical conditions, medications, fatigue, nervousness, or physical disabilities, which could have contributed to the failure of the tests.

If other evidence, such as a breathalyzer or blood test result, contradicts the field sobriety test outcome, an attorney can use this to argue that the sobriety test results were unreliable. For example, passing a breathalyzer test but failing a field sobriety test could indicate that the sobriety test results were not a reliable indicator of impairment.

Ready to Fight for You – Katz & Phillips, Experienced Florida DUI Defense Law Firm

At Katz & Phillips, P.A., we defend clients against DUI charges in even the most serious or seemingly hopeless cases. Our attorneys realize that field sobriety tests are not 100% accurate. Any number of issues unrelated to intoxication or drug use may cause a person to fail a field sobriety test, including age, weight, physical injury, illness, allergies, and/or nervousness.

If you have been charged with DUI on the evidence of a field sobriety test, don’t hesitate to call Katz & Phillips today and let us evaluate your case. Each of our attorneys has extensive knowledge and experience working with DUI cases, and we are prepared to go the distance in our efforts to provide you with high-quality assistance.

Contact a DUI defense lawyer at our firm to challenge your field sobriety test results.