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 are seemingly simple tasks that require you to focus on multiple things at once, usually mixing one physical and one mental task simultaneously, something which those who are intoxicated have a significantly reduced ability to do.
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 frequently make mistakes when administering field sobriety tests, and The Law Office of David A. Webster, P.A. have substantial experience reviewing the evidence and working to suppress anything that may have been obtained by illegitimate or unlawful means. We have over 30 years of experience defending the criminally-accused, and our dedication and success has earned us numerous awards, including an Avvo Clients’ Choice Award and being named one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by The National Trial Lawyers.
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 are:
- 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.
While these tests on their own are not all that accurate, when used together, they get slightly better. However, even then, when all three tests were properly administered and used together, they were correct only 82 percent of the time; that’s just below one in five people being wrongfully accused of driving while intoxicated because they couldn’t pass these tests.
This means if you were arrested and forced to take a blood or breath test, your arrest may not have been lawful. A Seminole County DUI attorney can help you fight back and work to suppress any evidence that may have been obtained through an unlawful arrest, including one caused by an improperly administered or inaccurate field sobriety test.