Written by Top Avvo-rated DUI Lawyer in Tampa John S. Castro 1/08/2011
Clues to Impairment During Each Test
Field sobriety tests are exercises used by law enforcement to help determine if a person’s normal faculties are impaired. All exercises focus on a person’s ability to complete a task while their attention is divided, much like driving a car. Contrary to common belief, a person does not “pass” or “fail,” but rather performs the exercises in a way that indicates clues of impairment or not.
Field sobriety tests are not required by law, and a person can refuse to perform the exercises at any time during a law enforcement investigation without fear of any legal penalty. While they are not required by law, your refusal to submit to the exercises can be used against you by the state attorney in a trial. The most commonly used exercises by law enforcement are the walk and turn, one-legged stand, and finger-to-nose. Below is a description of each exercise and the clues law enforcement look for.
WALK AND TURN
During the walk and turn, a person is asked to take 9 heel-to-toe steps in a straight line, turn around, and take 9 heel-to-toe steps back. The clues law enforcement look for are: starting before the instructions are finished, stopping to steady oneself, swaying, loss of balance or use of hands for balance, missing heel to toe, stepping offline, and incorrect number of steps.
During the one-legged stand, a person is asked to stand on one leg, while lifting the other leg off the ground 6 inches fully extended with toes pointing up. The person is asked to maintain that position for at least 20 seconds while counting out loud. The clues law enforcement look for are: swaying, using arms for balance, hopping, and putting the raised foot down.
During the finger-to-nose, a person is asked to stand up straight with arms at their side. Eyes are to remain shut while the head is tilted back pointed at the sky. The law enforcement officer instructs the person to lift either the left or right hand and touch the tip of the nose with the index finger. Once the tip of the nose is touched, the hand should be returned to the person’s side. The clues law enforcement look for are: failing to keep eyes closed, failing to return arm to side, missing nose with index finger, and using the wrong hand.
Law enforcement officers are highly trained to notice any and all clues of impairment. A slight gap between heel to toe or body sway can mean the difference between walking away and driving yourself home or riding in the back of a squad car to the jail in handcuffs. Be aware that everything you say or do can and will be used against you in court. Remember that law enforcement is listening to everything you say and watching everything you do.
For more information regarding a DUI, please visit our page which details Tampa DUI penalties and procedure.
If you find yourself the subject of a DUI investigation, you must obey all lawful commands from law enforcement. However, you do have a right to refuse to perform field sobriety exercises. If you choose not to perform the exercises, politely decline and request to speak to attorney before answering any questions. This article in no way is a suggestion to refuse to participate in field sobriety exercises, but rather it is meant to shed light on an issue that is often misunderstood.
For more assistance regarding a DUI, contact experienced Tampa DUI attorney John Castro.