If you have been arrested for DUI in the Orlando area in violation of Florida statute 316.193, more than likely a factor was your performance on the Field Sobriety Tests. Experienced Dui attorneys, such as the attorneys of Finebloom & Haenel can help discredit these tests as a method of challenging your case.
What are Field Sobriety Tests?
Field Sobriety Tests or “FST”s are “tests” that an officer will ask you to perform in order to help make a determination of whether or not you are under the influence. These tests are NOT mandatory. Unlike the breath test, your license can not be suspended for refusing to participate in roadside tests.
What are the most common FSTs?
The three most common FSTs are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus or “HGN,” the “Walk and Turn” and the “One Leg Stand.” According to NHTSA (the National Highway and Traffic Safety Association) these three tests when performed together can indicate impairment accurately up to 80% of the time.
There are also two tests that can be used when a person has a physical condition that prevents the one leg stand or the walk and turn from being an option. These are the” alphabet test” and the “finger-to-nose” test. These are not as common and are nor considered to be as reliable as the combination of the other three.
What is HGN?
HGN is an involuntary jerking of the eye that (according to law enforcement) occurs at a distinct point in your line of vision when your blood-alcohol level is over a .10.
To test for the HGN, an officer will ask you to stand with your feet together and look at a pen or a light. The officer will tell you to follow the pen or the light with your eyes without moving your head. When the officer moves the light in line with your shoulder, they will look to see if your eye jerks. If the officer thinks he sees your eyes jerk, he will list it as a sign of impairment.
In addition, an officer may ask you to move your eyes up and down or they may ask you to follow the tip of the pen or the light to the tip of your nose to see if your eyes cross properly. If they note that your eyes jerk while moving up and down, or if your eyes fail to cross, the officer will consider that to indicate drug impairment.
In addition to watching your eyes, the officer is looking to see if you are swaying while standing, if you move your head, and to see if you move your feet from the position he told you to maintain. If you do move your head, feet or body, they will list that as a sign of impairment.
Officers must be qualified to testify to the HGN in court. Without an experienced attorney to fight for you, this evidence could be allowed when an officer is not qualified to correctly perform the test or interpret the result.
What is the Walk and Turn?
After performing the HGN, the officer will ask you to perform the walk and turn. They will instruct you to stand in the starting position. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU STAY IN THE STARTING POSITION!! The officer will tell you to stand with your left foot in front of the right. It is not comfortable and is not the way a person would usually stand. But part of what the officer is looking for is whether or not you follow their directions. So if you don’t maintain the starting position, they mark you off.
While you are standing in the starting position, the officer will instruct you to take 9 heel to toe steps on the line, to turn a certain way, and to take 9 heel to toe steps back. When performing this exercise MAKE SURE YOU TOUCH YOUR HEEL TO YOUR TOE AND THAT YOU TURN EXACTLY THE WAY THE OFFICER SAYS! The officer is looking to see if you walk a straight line, but if you don’t touch your heel to your toe exactly like the officer says it is points off. If you don’t turn exactly as they say it is points off. So don’t show off or think that you know what to do. Do EXACTLY as the officer says.
One Leg Stand
When an officer asks you to perform the one leg stand, they will instruct you to pick a leg to stand on while you raise the foot of your other leg six inches above the ground. They will tell you to keep your leg straight out, to look down at your foot, and ask you to count “one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, etc.” until they tell you to stop.
When you perform this test, the officer is looking to see if you can count correctly and to make sure that you follow the directions by looking at your foot while you count. They look to see if you use your arms for balance and if you are unsteady. Don’t show off by raising your leg higher. Just do the best you can.
What is the Alphabet Test
If you have a physical condition that keeps you from performing the other tests, or if the officer is unsure whether to make an arrest based on the other test, they may ask you to perform the alphabet test. The officer will ask you to recite A PORTION of the alphabet without singing. Make sure you start with the letter they ask you to start with (such as “C”) and end with the letter they tell you to end with “such as “Q”).
How do you perform the Finger to Nose test?
For this test the officer will tell you to take your hands and place them at your side. The officer will tell you to stand with your feet together and your index fingers extended. Then they will tell you to touch the tip of your finger to the tip of your nose with the hand they announce. For example, when they say left you use the left finger. When they say right you use the right finger.
Now the officer will try to trick you on this test in a couple ways. First, make sure you keep your feet together. They are looking to see if you are swaying. They are also looking to see if you are following their instruction by keeping your feet together. When you touch your nose USE THE TIP OF YOUR FINGER TO TOUCH THE TIP OF YOUR NOSE! DO NOT USE THE PAD OF YOUR FINGER! This is a common mistake and the officers mark off for it. The tip of your finger is considered the part of your finger under you nail. Not the pad of your finger that is above the top knuckle joint (although that is what we “lay people” consider the tip). The tip of your nose is the very tip – the pointy part. Not the top.
This exercise also measures depth perception. So if you have problems with depth perception make sure to put it on record for the officer.
Are they really tests?
Sharp attorneys, such as the ones at Finebloom & Haenel will correct officers at trial. They will remind them that the proper title is not “Field Sobriety Test”, but “Field Sobriety Exercise”. Test indicates something that you pass or fail.
As you can see, the FSTs are rather complicated. Officers take off for little things that we take for granted as normal in everyday life. Do not let a bad experience with FSTs be the determining factor in your case. Contact Finebloom & Haenel today at 407-218-6277 to discuss your options. Our experienced and aggressive attorneys are available 24/7 to help you obtain the best possible outcome for your situation. Call us now!