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Drivers’ Rights in DUI Situations: The Field Sobriety Tests

When driving around Florida, it is extremely important to be aware of the laws and obligations that are required of you while operating your motor vehicle. While laws and obligations are important to understand, as ignorance is not an excuse for any traffic violation, on the other side of the coin, operators of motor vehicles should also be aware of their rights, especially when facing DUI charges.

When Can A Police Officer Pull a Driver Over for a DUI Investigation

Police officers may only pull a driver over if they have probable cause. Probable cause is the reasonable person’s belief that an offense was just committed, was about to be committed, or was going to be committed based on articulable facts. For example, a police officer cannot invent a reason, but must state some facts that would give rise to the belief that a driver was driving drunk. These facts might be that the car was swerving, or went through a red light or a stop sign, or the driver was speeding.

Your Rights During Field Sobriety Tests

Once you have been pulled over, police officers may ask you to perform certain tests to ascertain whether you are inebriated. Drivers are not required, by law, to perform acts that fall under the Field Sobriety Tests. These are the physical tests that have been created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). You are legally allowed to refuse to do any of these three tests, however, you may still be arrested for a DUI. If you do decide to perform the Field Sobriety Tests, the police officer’s observations may be used as evidence against you in your DUI case.

The Field Sobriety Tests: Methods and Accuracy Rates

The following are three different tests used by police officers:

  1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) is an involuntary eye jerk that occurs naturally when the eyes focus and gaze at different angles. Someone who is impaired will more likely have an eye jerk that is more exaggerated. Generally, for the HGN test, the police officer will ask the driver to follow a pen or other moving object horizontally with his/her eyes. It is estimated that this test success rate is about 88 percent of the time. The test is also useful when detecting other altering substances besides alcohol.
  2. Walk and Turn Test is a “divided attention” test that focuses on a person’s ability to listen to instructions while performing simple movements or physical tasks. This test is the most well known; in this test, the subject is asked to walk a straight line heel to toe for nine steps, and then turn around. The officer is looking to see whether the suspect is listening, following instructions, starting and stopping on time, and maintaining his/her balance. The success rate of this test for identifying an impaired driver is about 79 percent of the time.
  3. One Leg Stand is also a “divided attention” test that requires the suspect to stand with one foot off the ground and count for thirty seconds by a value of thousands. The officer observes the suspect’s ability to maintain his/her balance and if he/she puts his/her foot down before the end of the thirty seconds. This method has an accuracy rate of 83 percent.

How the Methods are Understood When Analyzed Together

All in all, the three tests, when combined, have an accuracy rate of 91 percent of determining whether someone has a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of 0.08. These accuracy rates, however, are conservative and the results of the tests are not always indicative of an impaired driver. Though these tests are subject to refusal by the driver, if a police officer requests a sample of your blood, breath, or urine, a new law states that your license will be automatically suspended if you refuse to submit to these tests.

Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

If you or a loved one has been a subject of an unfair police stop and DUI investigation, it is important to contact a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik who will be able to advocate on your behalf and help prove that the police officer was lacking the required cause to pull the car over for an illegal DUI investigation. Contact the law offices of Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation.

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