The officer now suspects you to be intoxicated to the point that your normal faculties are impaired. Field Sobriety Exercises aid the officer in this determination. In Florida, Field Sobriety Exercises are considered voluntary. Generally three standardized exercises are used to aid an officer’s determination of impairment. However, an officer may elect to use additional non-standardized exercises to bolster or dispel his suspicions of impairment
1) Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (Known as the Pen Test to most)- this exercise measures the jerking of your eyes as they track left and right or up and down, while following a pen or other object waved by an officer about 2 feet in front of you. The jerking of your eyes is known as lack of smooth pursuit and occurs when one is under the influence of alcohol. The failure of your eyes to track smoothly is one of the main indicators officers look for in determining impairment and is an INVOLUNTARY reaction. Additionally the officer will be looking for the onset of nystagmus in your eyes. If your eyes show nystagmus prior to 45 degrees to the right or left depending on where you’re looking, this will be used as an indicator of impairment, weighing very heavily in the officer’s determination to make an arrest.
2) Walk and Turn- This exercise begins with the officer requesting you to stand in a heel-to-toe manner with your arms relaxed and hanging down by your sides as he instructs you on how to perform the exercise. The officer will then direct you to walk in a heel to toe fashion (think balance beam) down the line with your arms by your sides as you count steps. Upon meeting the end of the line, you must “correctly” turn around and repeat the walk back to the beginning. For the duration the officer will be looking for lack of balance, improper number of steps, incorrect turn, inability to follow directions, and steps off of the line to confirm or dispel his suspicion of impairment.
3) One Leg Stand- This exercise requires you to stand with your arms at your sides while lifting one leg off the ground, with your heel approximately six inches high for thirty seconds. Like the other exercises, the officer is looking for inability to maintain balance, movement of your arms out from your body to balance, inability to follow directions, number of times your lifted foot touches the ground to balance, amongst nearly anything else he can conjure up to show impairment.
4) Finger to Nose- This exercise requires you to stand with your hands by your sides, close your eyes, and tilt your head back. The officer will then say “right” or “left” when requesting you lift the appropriate arm and touch the tip of your nose with your pointer finger. The officer will be looking for an inability to balance, inability to follow instructions, inability to keep your eyes closed, inability to touch the tip of your nose, and incorrectly lifting the wrong arm. Though not standardized, the finger to nose test is often used when impairment is in question or by those officers looking to obtain even more evidence against a person.
5) Counting- Generally an officer will ask you to count, simple as that. Arbitrarily they may ask you to start with a certain number and count up to another number. They may also ask you to count backwards.
6) Alphabet- The officer may ask you to recite the alphabet starting at any letter and going to completion or another arbitrary letter in sequence.
In the officer’s judgment you haven’t performed well on your field sobriety exercises and there are numerous signs of impairment. You are going to jail. Upon your arrest for DUI, Florida law mandates that a person remain in state custody for a minimum of eight hours or until your blood alcohol content is less than .05. From a practical standpoint, you will be there no less than 8 hours. Upon your arrival at the jail, you will be asked to provide a breath sample and informed of the consequences of a refusal. Breath tests in Florida are considered voluntary. It’s of utmost importance to know that refusing to take the test could lead to an additional charge if there has been a prior breath test refusal. Should you refuse, no doubt the State Attorney will attempt to spin your refusal against you, should your case come to trial. If you provide a valid breath sample and it registers .00, the officer will likely request you to provide a urine sample in search of illegal drugs in your system. In certain limited instances the officer may take a blood sample. Regardless of what your decision is regarding testing, it is of utmost importance to have an experienced DUI attorney review the lawfulness of the testing and the nature of the officer’s request. We want to help. Contact the DUI attorneys at The Mayberry Law Firm immediately for information and help with respect to your DUI.