By: Michael R. Ohle, Esq.
Learn When to Say 'No'
With more than 40,000 arrests for drinking and driving in Florida per year, there is a good chance for you to find yourself in such a situation as you drive in or around Fort Pierce, Okeechobee, Port St. Lucie, Stuart or Vero Beach.
Should you ever be pulled over under suspicion of DUI, you will more than likely be asked to perform a field sobriety test right by the side of the road, and you will have a choice to either go through with it or refuse it. What should you do?
Understanding Why the Test Is Administered
It is interesting to note that data on field sobriety refusals in Florida is not as readily available as the number of DUI convictions: 26,291 in the most recent year. This high conviction rate is a strong reminder that “drinking and driving” has become a sort of “judicial-industrial complex” in Florida.
The roadside field sobriety test is sometimes called a "field exercise" It is not a mandatory test, but it often signals the intent of a law enforcement officer to arrest you. If you agree to the test, which is more than likely proposed if you are pulled over at night, you will voluntarily agree to perform three exercises that will be evaluated by the officer, who, at this point, is looking for anything that he or she can articulate for the purpose of justifying an arrest.
Refusing a DUI Sobriety Test
If you agree to take this test, a DUI attorney in Fort Pierce will request a video, if available, as part of the discovery process. If you happened to perform optimally on the test, some prosecutors may move to reduce the charges. otherwise, your DUI lawyer will look for discrepancies between the video and the arrest report written by the officer.
In Florida, many law enforcement agencies stopped recording roadside field sobriety tests on video years ago. The absence of video would be detrimental to your case because it allows the arresting officer to write down anything he or she feels like writing. In other words, a field sobriety test that is not recorded on video would probably do more harm than good; thus, you may be better off refusing it.
In a DUI arrest, the determination of blood alcohol content is more important than the field sobriety test. Refusing a breath test may have certain consequences due to the implied consent set forth by Chapter 316 of the Florida Statutes. This, however, is not the case with the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand; refusing these motor skill tests will not lead to a license suspension.
If you opt against cooperating when asked to take a field sobriety test or Breathalyzer, you will be arrested and could lose your license for at least 12 months. If you do cooperate and your blood alcohol level is found to be above the legal limit, you will be arrested and could lose your license. The difference here is that you’ve just given police hard evidence that you were intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle, and this will be used against you by prosecutors at trial. While the choice is yours, it is much more difficult for your criminal defense lawyer to strike a plea deal if there’s proof that you were, indeed, driving under the influence. Contact Ohle & Ohle now schedule a free consultation.
Florida drunk driving fines and penalties