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3 reasons not to agree to standardized field sobriety testing

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Maybe you thought it was no big deal when you saw the red and blues flashing behind your car and knew you were about to be pulled over. You realized that you cut that last light a little too close, and you’re hoping for a warning instead of a ticket.

You didn’t expect the officer to start asking probing questions about where you’d been and what you’d been doing – and you quickly realized that you were under suspicion of driving while intoxicated. The next thing you know, the officer is asking you to submit to one or more standardized field sobriety tests.

Typically, the three tests used are the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-legged stand test. Here’s why you should politely decline to participate:

1. You’re under no legal obligation to comply with their request.

While implied consent statutes require you to submit to chemical testing (like a Breathalyzer test) or face punishment, there’s no law that says Florida drivers have to submit to field sobriety tests.

2. You don’t want to put yourself at the mercy of subjective scoring.

If the officer is asking you to take these tests, they’ve already decided that you’re likely impaired. Now, they need to get probable cause to make an arrest. Your performance on the field sobriety test is one way they can do that – and confirmation bias can lead an officer to see flaws in your performance that aren’t there. If the officer believes you are drunk, you won’t convince them otherwise.

3. Your odds of successfully completing the tests aren’t that great.

Even under absolutely pristine conditions with perfectly healthy subjects, standardized field sobriety tests are only accurate between 65% and 77% of the time, depending on which is used. Now, imagine how low those accuracy rates go when the test subjects are anxious, contending with the weather or standing at the side of the road with traffic all around. Plus, everything from an ear infection to a bit of fatigue can affect your performance.

In short, don’t participate in anything that could make your situation worse. If you are charged with drunk driving, take immediate steps to protect your future.