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How accurate are field sobriety tests in Florida?

On Behalf of | May 15, 2024 | DUI |

If you’re driving in Florida, it’s critical to understand the consequences of driving under the influence (DUI). A DUI conviction can have far-reaching negative impacts on your life. Imagine facing hefty fines, losing your driving privileges and even spending time behind bars.

Your insurance rates could skyrocket, and you might struggle to find employment due to having a DUI on your record. The emotional and financial toll can be overwhelming, with the burden extending to your family and loved ones. Moreover, the stigma of a DUI conviction can mar your personal and professional reputation, potentially closing doors to future opportunities.

The three pillars of field sobriety testing

When stopped on suspicion of DUI, an officer may ask you to perform three standardized field sobriety tests. Law enforcement says the tests assess balance, coordination and your ability to focus on multiple tasks. Let’s break them down:

  1. Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test: An officer will track your eyes while moving a pen or flashlight from side to side. If your eyes jerk prematurely or cannot follow smoothly, it could indicate a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .10 or greater. The test has a 77% accuracy rating, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  2. Walk-and-turn test: You’ll walk nine heel-to-toe steps, turn on one foot, and return. Officers look for signs like imbalance, stopping or incorrect steps. The NHTSA says displaying two or more indicators suggests a 68% chance of a BAC at or above .10.
  3. One-leg stand test: Standing on one foot, you’ll count aloud for 30 seconds. According to the NHTSA, hopping, swaying or using your arms to balance are among the signs that could point to a BAC of .10 or higher with 65% reliability.

Despite the relatively low accuracy numbers, if an officer believes you failed any of these tests, they will likely request that you take a breath or chemical test to measure BAC. DUIs result when a driver’s BAC registers .08 or higher in Florida.

Sobriety tests don’t always tell the whole story

It’s possible to fail field sobriety tests for reasons unrelated to intoxication. Medical conditions, age, injuries, or certain medications can affect performance. If any of these situations apply, it’s crucial to inform the officer, as this information could be vital in court.

You have the right to refuse field sobriety tests, but doing so may raise the officer’s suspicion. Remember, even if you pass the tests, you can still be arrested if the officer suspects you’re intoxicated. With so much at stake, seeking aggressive and experienced DUI defense is crucial to fighting a DUI or minimizing penalties.