May 16, 2019
While refusing a field sobriety test is an option for a driver in Florida, doing so is an important decision that carries certain risks.
When law enforcement makes a stop for suspicion of drunk driving, the driver will be asked to perform certain tests, and how they react to the officer’s commands during the tests can have a significant impact on any eventual case. However, even if an officer determines the driver is a risk to themselves and others, and places them under arrest, the offender is still presumed innocent unless and until they are convicted.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence (DUI), speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Contact Khonsari Law Group at (727) 269-5300 or online today.
Understanding Field Sobriety Testing
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sponsored research several years ago that led to the development of Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) used by law enforcement today. There are three main components of the testing:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. An officer tracks horizontal eye movement by moving a pen or their hand back and forth. The purpose of the test is to measure concentration and focus.
- Walk and turn test. The officer asks the driver to walk nine steps forward, placing heel to toes, and then turn and repeat the process. This test is used to measure balance, and ability to follow instructions.
- One-leg stand test. The officer asks the driver to hold one leg approximately six inches off the ground, and to count out loud for the officer until they are told to stop. This test is also used to measure balance.
Failing one or all of the SFST tests may prompt an officer to use a breathalyzer test that tests the driver’s blood alcohol level concentration (BAC). Under Florida law, anyone with a BAC of .08 is legally impaired.
Other methods for testing BAC include blood and urine tests. While a driver has an option of refusing field sobriety testing, they cannot refuse a test that measures BAC.
Refusing a Field Sobriety Test
You may refuse a field sobriety test, but you might wonder whether you should. Refusing to take a field sobriety test can be a gamble. If you are ultimately charged with DUI, any lack of cooperation with law enforcement before or during your arrest may reflect badly upon you, and the prosecution will note it.
That said, a lack of field sobriety test results may undermine the evidence for the charges against you. Furthermore, breathalyzer tests can be inaccurate for a number of reasons. The most reliable evidence of a .08 or higher BAC is a blood test, but those are not usually administered roadside.
If you have been charged with DUI you need a criminal defense attorney who will thoroughly investigate all of the facts of your case. The legal team at Khonsari Law Group carefully review police reports, interview all witnesses, determine the legitimacy of the reason for stopping our client, and evaluate how the officer conducted the stop. We believe the best defense is always an informed defense.
Refusing a field sobriety test is a right, and if you have not consumed very much alcohol and believe you will pass a BAC test, you may be inclined to refuse a field sobriety test. However, be aware that even small amounts of alcohol can affect your judgment. Furthermore, if you behave in a defiant or aggressive manner, that may cause problems for you later, especially if charges are made.
The Seriousness of a DUI
Under Florida law, the range of penalties for a DUI conviction vary in severity and depend on the factors of the case, including whether the offender has prior convictions. Penalties may include, but are not limited to:
- License suspension for one year or more;
- Installation of an ignition interlock device; and
- Court-ordered community service or alcohol treatment.
In addition to court ordered penalties, a DUI conviction can result in lasting damage to a person’s reputation, employment, relationships, educational and professional opportunities, and more. For this reason, DUI charges must be taken very seriously.
If an officer stops a driver for suspicion of DUI, they are doing their job. Perhaps a car was weaving over the road, traveling at erratic speeds, or a driver failed to indicate when making a turn. However, for a traffic stop to escalate to testing and a DUI charge, several additional facts must exist. For example, an officer may smell alcohol on the driver’s breath or clothing during the stop, or notice the driver has slurred speech. There should be evidence of possible intoxication not attributable to other causes, like a spilled drink at dinner, or use of a certain prescribed medication.
DUI is a serious public health and safety issue on Florida highways and roads. We want Florida residents and visitors to travel freely and safely. At the same time, we want every driver’s rights to be protected, and no one should unfairly suffer penalties that do not align with the facts.
Khonsari Law Group
Being arrested is an inherently stressful experience. If you have been charged with DUI and refused to take a field sobriety test, speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. No matter the circumstances of your case, get an advocate who will work hard for you to protect your rights and your future.
Rohom Khonsari began his practice in criminal law as a DUI prosecutor, and that experience is invaluable for the clients he now defends. His knowledge of the prosecution’s strategies and methods means he is prepared to make the best defense possible for every case.
The legal team at Khonsari Law Group in St. Petersburg is committed to serving all of our clients with the respect they deserve. Contact Khonsari Law Group today at (727) 269-5300 or online to schedule a free consultation and learn if we may be able to help you.