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Standard Field Sobriety Tests in Florida

Drivers in the state of Florida are not required by law to take the field sobriety tests when a police officer requests that one be taken. If a trial emerges, the police officer may inform the jury that a field sobriety test was refused. The police officer at that time may also inform the jury of the reasonable suspicion he or she had in the driver’s impairment and the reason for the test. The police officer at this time might also inform the jury of any other signs that would point to the driver’s impairment. However, at this time the driver might also offer the jury his or her own explanation as to why the test was refused. In Florida, the standardized Field Sobriety Test is actually a combination of three different tests administered and evaluated in a manner to obtain proof and/ evidence of impairment and develop a cause for arrest of the driver. The following make up the three components of the SFST test; the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk and turn and the one-leg stand. The horizontal gaze nystagmus is, “an involuntary jerking of the eyeball which occurs naturally as the eyes gaze to the side.” When under the influence of alcohol, the effect of nystagmus is exaggerated and may occur at lesser angles. A person under the influence of alcohol will not be able to track an object with their eyes as smoothly as would an unimpaired individual. The police officer conducting the test looks for three different “indicators of impairment” in each eye. One, if the eye can or cannot follow the moving object smoothly, two, if the eye jerks in a distinct manner while at maximum deviation and third, if the angle of onset of jerking is within 45 degrees of the center of the eye. The second portion of the Field Sobriety Test is the Divided Attention Test. The walk-and-turn test and the one-leg stand test make up the Divided Attention Test. In the walk-and-turn test, the participant must walk in a straight line for nine steps. The participant must then turn on one heel and walk back in a straight line. The police officer administering the test looks for seven factors to indicate whether the subject of the test is under the influence of alcohol; whether the subject can keep balance while listening to police, if the subject begins before instructions from the police officer are finished, if the subject stops while walking to regain balance, if the subject loses balance while turning, if the subject does not touch heel-to-toe, if the subject uses arms to balance him or her self or if the subject of the test takes an incorrect amount of steps. In the one-leg stand test, the subject of the tests is asked to stand on one foot with the other foot approximately six inches off the ground and count out loud until told by the police officer to put his or her foot down. Police officers look for four factors to determine whether the subject of the test is under the influence of alcohol; swaying while balancing, using arms to balance, hopping to maintain balance and/or putting his or her foot down. In the cases when a disabled driver is pulled over, an officer may ask the subject of the test to recite the alphabet, counting aloud or performing finger dexterity tests.


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