Field Sobriety Tests as a Method of Determining a Driver’s Level of Intoxication in Broward
Field sobriety tests, also known as roadside tests, are supposed to be standardized tests that allow a law enforcement officer to gauge the relative sobriety or level of intoxication of a driver, says Broward DUI Lawyer William Moore, who has studied the effectiveness of such police tactics for many years during his criminal defense career. Police officers often administer the tests instead of or in addition to breath or blood alcohol tests in order to make a DUI arrest. The field sobriety tests are sometimes, but certainly not always, video-recorded for use before a jury or a judge in a DUI trial.
When looking at these field sobriety tests as a lay person, Fort Lauderdale DUI attorney William Moore acknowledges that they may seem simple for a driver who is sober to perform or easy to use as an investigative tool for a police officer. The problem is how very subjective the tests are, even for a highly seasoned law enforcement official.
For example, Broward DUI attorney William Moore says that police may see what they want or expect to see – even if it is unconscious. The scenario is not difficult to imagine: a police officer (probably a state trooper) is patrolling the Florida Turnpike at 2:00 in the morning. He spots a red car going about 65 miles per hour, one of the only cars still on the road. The red car swerves to the left, crossing the dotted line, entering the leftmost lane with its front tire. The car jerks back into the center lane.
The police officer turns on her sirens and speeds off to apprehend to the red car. The red car stops and the officer proceeds to conduct a traffic stop.
Officer: Have you been drinking tonight, ma’am?
Driver: No. Well, not really. I had some wine with dinner but that was awhile ago.
The officer observes that the driver seems nervous and asks her to step out of the vehicle. She is suspicious that there is a DUI in progress. She asks the driver to perform several tests, such as standing on one foot and counting backwards from thirty. The woman does so, but is slightly wobbly. It’s a close call, but the officer places her under arrest for driving under the influence.
In reality, the woman may have swerved when looking down to change the radio station. Late at night, she may also have been sleepy. Two glasses of wine at dinnertime is unlikely to leave a driver impaired many hours later. In this case, a police officer would use the field sobriety tests to evaluate the driver’s impairment, but there is no way to produce truly accurate results.
This scenario plays out all the time. Unfortunately, the diagnostic tool is far from perfect, and law enforcement officers tend to grossly overestimate a driver’s intoxication. In blind studies, in fact, experienced police officers often determined that “suspects” who were not under the influence of alcohol or any other substance were too impaired to drive.
Fort Lauderdale DUI attorney William Moore provides outstanding DUI defense in Broward, Fort Lauderdale, and Fort Lauderdale-Dade Counties. If you have been charged with a DUI, contact Fort Lauderdale DUI Lawyer William Moore, P.A.
This article should be used for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice nor as implied representation of any person.