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Can Florida Police Request Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests?


If you’re pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving in Florida, you know there’s a chance that officers will request you to perform field sobriety tests to check your level of impairment. In many situations, police will employ one or more of the three standardized field sobriety tests described by AAA: horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk-and-turn, and/or one-leg stand. These exams were developed in the 1970s and scientifically validated to be reliable, so they’re in wide use by law enforcement throughout the US.

However, police aren’t restricted to ONLY using standardized field sobriety tests (FSTs) when they’re determining whether to make an arrest for drunk driving. Officers may employ other non-standardized tests – most of which haven’t been researched to assess their reliability. A skilled Florida DUI defense lawyer can develop a strategy to fight the charges if you were arrested upon a non-standardized FST, so the following information may be helpful.

How Field Sobriety Tests Work in DUI Cases: After police pull you over on suspicion of drunk driving, they can rely on other observations to arrest you for DUI. An officer might smell alcohol, see that you have bloodshot eyes, or notice that you’re slurring your words. Once they do, law enforcement may go a step further and ask you to perform FSTs. Usually, police do so because they want extra support to make an arrest – which they hope will turn into a conviction for drunk driving. 

Examples of Non-Standard Field Sobriety Tests: Officers may decide to work with non-standardized FSTs in lieu of or in addition to the standardized versions recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The goal is the same: To obtain enough evidence via their observations that they have sufficient grounds to charge you. Examples of non-standardized field sobriety tests include:

  • Stretching out your arm, followed by touching your nose;
  • Reciting the alphabet backwards or without singing the song;
  • Counting a range of numbers, such as all odds or evens between 1-50; or,
  • The Romberg balance test, where you’re instructed to stand still with your eyes closed.

How to Challenge Results of Field Sobriety Tests: If you were only requested to perform non-standardized FSTs, you can present a defense that the officer didn’t have probable cause. The failure of officers to use the recognized tests indicates sloppy police work and unfairness. Still, if law enforcement used standardized FSTs, there may still be grounds for a defense. People respond in different ways to these tests, and many factors can affect the results – such as weather, road conditions, and medical issues.

Schedule a Consultation with a Florida DUI Defense Attorney

This information may be useful, but it’s a mistake to go it alone and fight drunk driving charges on the basis of non-standardized FSTs. Your first priority should be getting in touch with an experienced lawyer who can work to build a solid defense. For more information, please contact Fort Lauderdale DUI attorney Kevin J. Kulik. We can set up a case evaluation to review your circumstances and determine legal options.





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