If you are stopped by the police, they may suspect that you are driving while impaired. If so, the officer may ask you to step out of your vehicle and perform some field sobriety tests. Many people see these types of tests on television and wonder whether they are compelled to comply with these requests. The short answer is no. You are not required by law to perform field sobriety tests, however, that will not stop the police from taking further action against you.
What are Field Sobriety Tests?
Field sobriety tests, FSTs, are a variety of tests that are designed to provide law enforcement with information about possible impairment. The tests are universally used by police agencies across the country and in Brevard County. FSTs are largely subjective, although they are rooted in scientific principles. It is helpful to understand the three standardized FSTs that you may be presented with during a traffic stop.
Information for law enforcement about FSTs is provided through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The three FSTs include:
- Walk and turn test: The walk and turn test requires you to take nine steps heel-to-toe on a line, turn and take nine heel-to-toe steps back.
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test: The police officer will ask you to hold your head still and follow a penlight as it moves side to side and up and down.
- One leg stand test: The officer will tell you to hold one leg out in front of you while you count.
The officer will use the FSTs to evaluate your condition and use his or her judgment to decide whether it is likely that you are impaired. If so, the officer will request a chemical test. This is in the form of a breath, blood, or urine analysis test. It measures your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In Florida, if your BAC is 0.08% or higher, you are considered impaired.
What if I Refuse to Take FSTs?
It is important to note that field sobriety tests are not the same as chemical DUI tests. In Florida, you are required by law to take a chemical DUI test if asked to do so by a member of law enforcement. This is called implied consent. If you refuse to take a chemical DUI test, you will face a separate charge that includes a one-year license suspension. Also, the fact that you refused to take the test will be used against you in court.
Refusing the take the FSTs is not against the law. You are within your rights to refuse to perform FSTs. If you do refuse, remember that the police officer will most likely request that you take a chemical test. The police officer may already have formed an opinion as to whether he or she feels you are DUI through general observation.
If you have been charged with DUI, it is imperative to seek legal representation as soon as possible. There are some defense options that your attorney will have, and sometimes mistakes were made by the officer during the process. The penalties for a DUI conviction are serious, so it is always best to try to defend the charges. Get the legal help you need to protect your rights. Contact our legal team at Henderson Legal Group today to discuss your case.