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Can DUI field sobriety tests be challenged in Tampa?

Posted by attorney David Haenel

Before we begin, the first thing that should be made clear is that it is not illegal for any adult ages twenty-one and over to drink and drive. It is, however, illegal for an impaired adult to drive. Impairments can be caused by drinking, controlled substances, or misuse of certain medications. It is not uncommon for a person who has had one or two drinks to be involved in a traffic stop where the law enforcement official requires them to participate in a field sobriety test.

Chemical Tests Are Not Field Sobriety Tests

In order for a law enforcement official to confirm that the driver is in fact under the influence, they use breath, blood, and urine tests. These forms of chemical testing are not performed in the field, though, but rather at the police station. In addition to the field sobriety test, an experienced DUI attorney in Tampa knows that these chemical tests can be challenged.

Roadside Sobriety Testing

While law enforcement officials try using field sobriety testing as a way of proving if someone is drunk or not, the methods are not reliable. Therefore, many Tampa attorneys refer to them as roadside exercises. The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) endorses the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST).

What does the SFST Entail?

  • Horizontal Gaze: Can the driver follow a moving object with their eyes in smooth, fluid motions? Because of so many factors like traffic zooming by and other stressful conditions, these results are often inconclusive.
  • One-leg Stand: Can the driver stand with one foot elevated about six inches from the ground for a period of around thirty seconds? The problem with the reliability of this field sobriety test is that it's difficult for someone who hasn't been drinking at all to perform.
  • Walk and Turn: Can the driver walk in a straight line, turn around, and walk back in a straight line? If the driver has issues with their feet or ankles, they will not be able to perform this test even if they are sober. Other issues the driver could experience during the field sobriety test include problems with their hips or their legs.

These are the only three tests, or exercises if you will, that make up the SFST and are endorsed by the NHTSA. Even though attorneys find this type of testing inconclusive, drivers can still be arrested if the police officer determines they have failed one or more of the tests. Not only does this put the driver's driving privileges at stake, but it is also damaging to their reputation.

When Field Sobriety Tests Are Challenged:

A reputable Tampa DUI attorney will work aggressively on behalf their clients who face DUI charges and were required to take field sobriety tests. They will work hard to examine all the evidence, which in these field sobriety test cases will include the recordings of the officer's dashboard video cameras, and they will also obtain witness testimony from anyone who was present at the time the testing occurred.

Additional resources provided by the author

Finebloom & Haenel P.A.
3426 West Kennedy Blvd
Tampa, Fl 33609
(813) 649-8690

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