Field Sobriety Tests in Palm Beach County FL
When you’re pulled over for a suspected DUI, things happen fast. In a matter of minutes, you may be asked to perform a standard field sobriety test in Palm Beach County FL… or several, which is common.
But these tests can be difficult even if you’re sober. One study found that 46% of sober participants were thought to be impaired as a result of standard field sobriety tests. So, how do you prepare for the possibility of being pulled over and asked to perform them?
As a dedicated, knowledgeable field sobriety test attorney in Palm Beach County FL, our attorney Andrew Simko recommends educating yourself as much as possible.
When you know what to expect from DUI field sobriety tests in FL, as well as what can impact your results and how to fight against one or more tests, you’re well-prepared for any future encounters with law enforcement.
Types of Standardized DUI Field Sobriety Tests in FL
Currently, there are three approved field sobriety tests in Palm Beach County FL, per the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN Test)
This test involves a police officer checking your eyes. The word “nystagmus” means involuntary, jerky eye movement. So, the officer will ask you to follow an object, like their finger or a pen, side-to-side with your eyes.
The officer then watches how smoothly your eyes follow, whether jerky movements occur when either eye is moved fully to the side, and whether they happen while your eyes are within 45 degrees from their center.
This means the officer is looking for these three cues in each eye for a total of six. If they detect four or more, they may believe you’re impaired.
- Walk and Turn Test (WAT Test)
The next test is meant to measure your balance and ability to follow instructions. The officer will instruct you to take nine steps heel-to-toe, then turn around and do it again.
If an officer picks up two of eight cues in this test, they’re trained to see it as a potential sign of DUI. The eight cues are:
- Inability to keep your balance while receiving instructions
- Starting too soon
- Stopping while walking
- Missing the heel-to-toe steps
- Stepping off the line
- Using your arms for balance
- Making an incorrect turn
- Taking the wrong number of steps
- One Leg Stand Test (OLS Test)
During this test, you’ll be asked to stand on only one leg for 30 seconds. This test is given to measure your coordination, balance, and ability to handle two tasks at once.
You’ll be instructed on how to raise one leg about six inches from the ground with your foot pointed out and both legs straight. While looking at your elevated foot, you’re to count out loud as directed by the officer.
The four cues involved in this test are if you sway while trying to balance, if you use your arms for balance at any point, if you hop while counting, or if you put your foot down. Presenting two of these four cues implies to the officer that you may be impaired, according to the NHTSA.
- Portable Breath Tests (PBT)
The last field sobriety test in Palm Beach County FL is different from the others in that you aren’t performing ongoing activities. Instead, an officer uses an alcohol measurement device called a Portable Breath Test or Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) during the roadside stop.
You’ll be asked to blow into a handheld device, which then gives a reading on your BAC. However, these devices are often less accurate than the breathalyzers at the police station.
PBT results can be used to establish probable cause, but aren’t admissible during your DUI trial.
Field Sobriety Test Refusal in Palm Beach County FL
In Florida, there’s no law stating that you must agree to perform field sobriety tests when asked. Frankly, we typically advise clients to refuse any field sobriety test in Palm Beach County FL. You also won’t lose your driver’s license as a direct result of saying no.
However, Florida’s implied consent law means you are legally obligated to submit to a chemical breath, blood, or urine test if asked. Even a first-time refusal results in a one-year suspension of your driver’s license under this law, though you can apply for a hardship license.
Working with a dedicated, communicative field sobriety test attorney in Palm Beach County FL is the best way to understand your rights and the best path forward if you’re ever pulled over for a suspected DUI.
Fighting the Results of Your DUI Field Sobriety Test
It’s true that DUI field sobriety tests in FL have been approved by the NHTSA. However, this doesn’t mean the results are always guaranteed to be accurate.
This is clear when we look at one of the most recent studies, which the NHTSA sponsored to demonstrate how effective each field sobriety test in Palm Beach County FL is.
Per the study, four (or more) signs in the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test mean there’s an 88% chance the person is impaired.
But at the same time, 37% of non-impaired participants demonstrated four (or more) signs in this same test.
This example makes it very clear that field sobriety tests simply aren’t infallible. An experienced and passionate field sobriety test lawyer such as our attorney Andrew Simko can potentially fight the results of your test(s) by:
- Looking into your medical history for any issues that would impact your performance
- Considering your age and weight, and how these factors impacted you during the test
- Analyzing the location where you were given the field sobriety tests, as darkly lit or damp areas can have a huge effect
You Need a Knowledgeable, Communicative Field Sobriety Test Lawyer
Ultimately, the Florida legal system takes a very severe stance on DUI cases. With a total of 44,001 DUI arrests statewide in 2022 (per the FLHSMV), the state seeks to prevent repeat offenses by imposing severe penalties.
And in many cases, it all starts with being asked to perform a field sobriety test in Palm Beach County FL.
If you need help fighting the results of DUI sobriety tests in FL, or you’d like more information on how to handle being pulled over, our field sobriety test lawyer Andrew Simko is here to help. Contact Simko Law now at (561) 951-1264.
FAQS About DUI Field Sobriety Tests in FL
Can medical conditions affect field sobriety tests in Palm Beach County?
Yes, certain medical conditions can affect field sobriety tests in Palm Beach County. This is one of many reasons we advise you to politely refuse when asked to perform these tests.
Some of the medical conditions which can negatively affect you in this situation are:
- Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)
- Inner ear conditions
- Prior head trauma/injury
- Certain back or leg injuries
- Parkinson’s disease
- Panic attacks or anxiety
Many other conditions and circumstances can play a large role in the results of your test. When you choose a focused, detail-oriented field sobriety test attorney in Palm Beach County like Andrew Simko, these possibilities will be fully explored.
Can you be arrested based solely on a field sobriety test in Palm Beach County?
Typically, field sobriety tests alone aren’t enough to get arrested for DUI in Palm Beach County. It’s much more common for a law enforcement official to ask that you take a breathalyzer test first. If you’re over the legal limit, you’ll be formally arrested at that point.
What legal defenses are available for failed field sobriety tests in Palm Beach County?
Depending on the details of your case, the legal defenses potentially available for failed field sobriety tests in Palm Beach County are:
- Medical or physical conditions such as your weight, age, or diagnosis are the reason for the failure
- The environment negatively impacted you due to poor lighting, uneven terrain, or a slippery surface
- Weather conditions like snow, rain, or wind made the field sobriety tests far more difficult
- Analyzing the officer’s actions for any signs of bias, lack of training, or breach of protocol
The best way to understand which legal defenses are most likely to benefit you is by hiring a responsive, dedicated field sobriety test lawyer like Andrew Simko.
As a former prosecutor who’s handled thousands of cases, he’s deeply familiar with how the state may try to build their case against you—and the most effective ways to secure a favorable outcome against them. Contact the DUI Defense Lawyers at Simko Law Group now at (561) 951-1264 to schedule your consultation.