A field sobriety test allows an officer in Naples, Florida, to check drivers for impairment. Officers often use the tests made standard by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, the accuracy of these tests is debatable and drivers can challenge them.
Field sobriety tests overview
Field tests were solely designed to give officers possible evidence to arrest a driver for drunk driving. However, the NHTSA has approved three tests: walk-and-turn, horizontal nystagmus gaze, and the one-leg stand test.
The walk-and-turn test requires the driver to walk nine heel-to-toe steps in a straight line and repeat the other direction. The horizontal gaze test checks vision by having the driver follow an object with their eyes. The one-leg stand asks the driver to maintain balance on one leg six inches off the ground for 30 seconds.
Defenses to field sobriety tests
The defense can challenge if the officer followed the steps in accordance with the NHTSA guidelines, such as using even terrain. Drivers should also be allowed to remove high heels more than two inches or other restrictive clothing. Certain medical conditions may influence test results for sober drivers, such as inner ear infections or muscular disorders.
Officers without proper training, experience, and continuing education may invalidate the field sobriety tests in some cases. If the officer uses non-standard tests, such as counting backward, it may get dismissed as evidence.
The defense could challenge the legality of the stop, since the officer needs reasonable suspicion to pull a driver over, such as speeding. They also need probable cause to arrest a driver for DUI, and they must observe the driver for several minutes. If either of these elements is missing, it may invalidate the evidence and dismiss the case.
Drivers in Florida can commonly refuse field tests or portable breathalyzers without penalty. However, drivers must submit to a blood alcohol test after an arrest, or they face automatic license suspension. The defense can also challenge the accuracy of the breathalyzer test.