Field Sobriety Testing
Jacksonville Lawyers Helping Drivers Facing DUI Charges
If the police suspect you of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), they may perform field sobriety testing to determine whether you should be charged with DUI. Field sobriety tests are different from chemical testing, but are often used along with breathalyzers and other tests that determine a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). If you are charged with a DUI, whether it will be a first or subsequent offense for you, a skilled Jacksonville DUI attorney can help you go over your options and possible defenses.
When Field Sobriety Tests are Used
There are a few different scenarios in which field sobriety testing is commonly used. One of those is after an accident, because the police may want to make sure that intoxication was not the cause of the collision. Another situation in which field sobriety tests may be used is after law enforcement has pulled someone over due to erratic driving. They may also perform tests when a driver has been pulled over for other traffic infractions or passes through a sobriety checkpoint.
Law enforcement is permitted to perform field sobriety or chemical tests whenever there is a reasonable suspicion to conduct a DUI investigation. Reasonable suspicion can occur if the officer smells alcohol on the driver’s breath, sees the driver has bloodshot or glassy eyes, or notices any other indicator of possible intoxication.
Common Field Sobriety Tests
There are three common field sobriety tests that are commonly used in Florida.
In the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the police officer will have a driver follow an object with their eyes. Nystagmus is involuntary eyeball jerking or bouncing. When someone is intoxicated, their eyes will sometimes move like this because the communication with the brain is impaired.
The walk and turn test is exactly what it sounds like. When an officer conducts this test, the driver is instructed to get out of the vehicle and walk heel to toe and turn around and walk back. While they are walking, the officer is looking to see if the driver is able to keep their balance while walking heel to toe, and if they can follow directions.
Another test that is fairly self-explanatory is the one leg stand test. In this test, the officer has the driver stand on one leg and to count out loud for approximately 30 seconds. During this test, the officer is looking for signs of impairment like swaying or another inability to balance.
Depending on the results of the field sobriety tests, a driver may be arrested for DUI. At this point the officer does not need to prove a specific blood alcohol content, but they need to have probable cause to arrest the driver. After arresting the defendant, the officer will then usually perform a blood, urine, or breath, or drug test. If the test comes back with a BAC of .08 or higher, or positive for illegal use of marijuana or other drugs, then the defendant may be found guilty of DUI provided the other elements of the crime are met.
Defenses That Attack Field Sobriety Testing
Even if a defendant has “failed” a field sobriety test, they may be able to get the test thrown out or excluded from their criminal case. One defense is that the driver has a medical condition that makes it impossible for them to pass the test, even when they are sober. Defendants may also fail field sobriety tests when sober due to their age, hearing, or other internal or environmental conditions. Another defense is that the officer failed to perform the field sobriety test properly, or does not have the proper training to perform the field sobriety test. A knowledgeable DUI lawyer will be able to tell you what defenses are most likely to apply under your particular circumstances.
Experienced DUI Attorneys Serving the Jacksonville Area
If you are charged with a drunk driving offense, it is advisable to contact a skilled DUI lawyer as soon as possible. At Ellis and Bryant, P.A., our attorneys take a proactive approach to their cases, examining every potential defense to the charges you are facing, whether it will be a first offense or repeat DUI. We represent clients in areas including Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach, Orange Park, Middleburg, and throughout the rest of Clay and Duval counties. Call us 24/7 at (904) 551-4120, or use the contact form on this website to schedule your free initial consultation.