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Field Sobriety Tests

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Field Sobriety Tests in Seminole County

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In order to make an arrest and subject someone to a blood or breath test, law enforcement must be able to establish what is known as “probable cause,” or a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed, which would then justify an arrest and search. However, simply looking at someone or talking to them for a few minutes may not necessarily yield an accurate result, so law enforcement devised tests known as “field sobriety tests” in order to help with this process. These seemingly simple tasks require simultaneous focus on multiple aspects, typically combining one physical and one mental task, a challenge that significantly escalates for those who are intoxicated.

However, despite substantial testing and refinement, field sobriety tests are shockingly inaccurate, even to this day, and still cause a number of false or unjustified arrests. If you have been arrested and charged with DUI, you should speak with a Seminole County DUI attorney regarding your case. Law enforcement often errs in administering field sobriety tests, and The Law Office of David A. Webster, P.A. brings substantial experience in scrutinizing evidence and striving to suppress any items obtained illegitimately or unlawfully. With over 30 years of defending the criminally accused, our dedication and success have garnered numerous accolades, including an Avvo Client’s Choice Award and a place among the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by The National Trial Lawyers.

Call The Law Office of David A. Webster, P.A. today by dialing 407-862-9222 and request a free, no-obligation consultation to start building your defense as soon as possible!

Three Accepted Field Sobriety Tests

The immense number of false arrests for driving under the influence led to the need for a standardized system. Law enforcement and the NHTSA developed a standardized set of procedures for the three most accurate field sobriety tests to attempt to cut down on the number of mistakes and wrongful arrests. However, the tests are still surprisingly inaccurate, even with these standard procedures.

The three most widely accepted field sobriety tests:

  • One-Leg Stand: This test involves the supposedly intoxicated individual standing on one leg, extending the other outward, and then counting out loud for 30 seconds. Some variations may include tilting their head backward or keeping their hands at their sides. Most people would tell you that they might not even be able to accomplish this task completely sober, and for that reason, it’s got a remarkably low accuracy rating: just 65 percent when administered correctly.
  • Walk & Turn: The walk-and-turn test is about as simple as it sounds. Law enforcement ask the suspected individual to walk nine steps in a heel-to-toe manner in a straight line, before turning 180 degrees without lifting their feet and then going back the other way. Think sort of like walking on a balance beam. Sounds tricky, right? Well, then it should come as very little surprise that studies found this test to be only 68 percent accurate when administered properly.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: This is perhaps the hardest test to fool, and the easiest to take. When intoxicated, the brain loses the ability to accurately control the muscles that regulate eye movement, leading to flickering or twitching. To find this, an officer holds up a pen, a light, or their finger, and then asks the suspected person to track it with their eyes without moving their head. If the eyes flicker or can’t keep up with the movement, this is a tell-tale sign of intoxication. However, despite the fairly consistent nature of this test, testing only found it to be accurate just 77 percent of the time.

Accuracy of Field Sobriety Tests

While these tests on their own are not all that accurate, when used together, they get slightly better. However, even when properly administered and used together, all three tests only correctly identified intoxication 82 percent of the time; this means nearly one in five people faced wrongful accusations of driving while intoxicated due to failing these tests.

If you underwent arrest and had to take a blood or breath test, the law might not have justified your arrest. A Seminole County DUI attorney can assist you in fighting back and endeavoring to suppress any evidence obtained through an unlawful arrest, including that resulting from an improperly administered or inaccurate field sobriety test.

We encourage you to contact The Law Office of David A. Webster, P.A. as soon as possible to learn more about your case and how we can help you: 407-862-9222.