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Do you have to take field sobriety tests?

There are certain things you are legally obligated to do if a Florida police officer pulls you over in a traffic stop. For instance, if the officer asks to see your driver's license and vehicle registration, you are obligated to meet the request. When you obtained your driver's license in this state, you also implicitly agreed to take chemical tests that a police officer may lawfully request. Should you refuse such a request, you will incur automatic administrative penalties, which often include a driver's license suspension.

Do you know, however, that you do not have to submit to requests to take field sobriety tests? Such tests are entirely voluntary, and there are no additional administrative or legal penalties for your refusal. However, some say it's best to cooperate with lawful requests for field sobriety tests to avoid legal complications down the line if prosecutors wind up filing criminal charges for DUI. Knowing what to expect in such tests and where to seek support when needed can help lessen your stress in such situations.

Three common tests that may affect your future

You can logically assume a police officer suspects you of drunk driving the moment he or she asks you to exit your vehicle. Either this, or the officer may think you're drug-impaired or have committed some other type of crime. In short, as soon as you step out of your car, you are detained. What you do and say next may greatly impact your future. The following list explains three field sobriety tests officers often use to decide whether particular situations warrant DUI arrests:

  • The one-leg stand test is a means for a police officer to observe how well you can follow instructions and perform basic balance and cognitive tasks simultaneously. The test typically involves you standing on one foot for at least 30 seconds while counting out loud.
  • Another balance and agility check is known as the walk-and-turn test. The officer observing you may instruct you to place your arms to your sides while walking a straight line. You will also have to place the heel of one foot to the toes of the other with every step along the line. Finally, the officer will order you to make a 180 degree turn and repeat the entire process in the opposite direction.
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test measures your eye movements. When sober, your eyeballs will jerk once your left-to-right gaze reaches its maximum peripheral vision. However, if you are intoxicated, such erratic eyeball movements may occur before you reach your peripheral max. A police officer will likely take this as a sign of probable intoxication. This task is challenging for many sober people, so it is unlikely to be reliable as a gauge to suspect drunkenness.

Sometimes, Florida police charge people with DUI who never consumed a drop of alcohol before getting into their cars to drive. Various issues and situations can lead to such arrests, such as registering positive for alcohol on a Breathalyzer test because of cold medication or mouthwash you used that contained alcohol as a main ingredient. Also, you may have a pre-existing vision condition or health problem that impedes your ability to perform well on field sobriety tests.

How to rectify such situations

Florida motorists facing DUI charges often face many obstacles when trying to avoid conviction. Most find it easier to navigate the criminal justice system by acting alongside experienced defense assistance in court.

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