Can You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Florida?

Can You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Florida

A field sobriety test is a tool designed by law enforcement to ensure that drivers are not driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Failing a field sobriety test can give police officers grounds to make an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI). They can then perform further testing that can confirm this. For example, testing to determine whether or not the motorist’s blood alcohol level is above the legal limit in Florida.

Many Floridians wonder whether or not it is legal for law enforcement to perform this test and if you can refuse a field sobriety test in Florida. This is a complicated question that requires an understanding of the state laws for driving intoxicated in the state, as well as the field sobriety test itself.

Field Sobriety Tests Explained

A field sobriety test, or FST, is a general term that can refer to any number of different tests that law enforcement agencies can use to identify if a driver may be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There are three main sobriety tests validated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), also known as the standard tests:

  1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: Detects involuntary jerking of the eyes when glancing to the side which is often present in impaired individuals. The police officer performs this by asking the motorist to follow a flashlight or pen across his or her field of vision.
  2. Walk and Turn: This test involves the driver walking in a straight line, usually for nine steps, turning around, and walking the same number of steps. The officer is watching for balance, attention, and the ability to keep the count in both directions.
  3. One Leg Stand: The one leg stand involves the motorist standing on one leg for approximately 30 seconds while counting backward. Once again this is a balance and coordination test that is also designed to divide attention by counting.

There are other field sobriety tests that individual law enforcement agencies in Florida may conduct, including touching your finger to your nose, counting backwards, reciting the alphabet backwards or from a random starting point, or tilting your head with your eyes closed.

Officers are carefully trained to watch for signs that give them probable cause to make a DUI arrest and conduct further testing, such as a breathalyzer. This further testing can lead to an actual DUI charge.

Implied Consent in Florida

In Florida, there is an implied consent law for drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other illicit substances. This means that by exercising the privilege of driving in the state of Florida, motorists are automatically consenting to certain tests if there is probable cause of intoxication. Under the law, there are strict penalties for refusing these tests, including suspension of license and even jail time.

It’s important to understand that implied consent only applies to more objective testing methods, such as breath or urine tests, and not subjective tests such as field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests are actually used by officers to determine probable cause for further testing.

Can You Legally Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Florida?

The short answer is that you are not legally required to consent to a field sobriety test in Florida and you are within your rights to refuse. Officers can use this refusal against you to increase suspicion of intoxicated behavior though, particularly in combination with your overall behavior and demeanor.

Whether you consent to the test or not, you should always be as cooperative and courteous with law enforcement as possible.

Legal Assistance for a Field Sobriety Test or DUI Arrest

Although field sobriety tests are designed to be difficult and help officers detect potential intoxication, officers also have very strict limitations under the law for performing these tests. Police officers must very carefully record and report the steps they took that led to them observing probable cause for DUI in order for the charge to hold up in court.

Qualified and experienced attorneys will have a thorough understanding of the laws and restrictions around field sobriety tests and DUI arrests. Anyone arrested for a DUI should always seek legal assistance from the best possible attorney for their needs to ensure they are being treated fairly within the law.

Clark Hartpence Law Can Help with a DUI Arrest

If you or someone close to you has been arrested for a DUI, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. At Clark Hartpence Law, our experienced, expert attorneys regularly represent clients involved in DUI, DWI, or reckless driving cases.

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.