Florida DUI Field Sobriety Tests Explained

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has standardized three different field sobriety tests for police officers to use to determine if a driver is intoxicated. These standardized field sobriety tests are not without criticism given their subjective nature. Critics of field sobriety tests argue that these tests are designed to yield a positive result regardless of a person’s level of intoxication. Nevertheless, if you are stopped in Florida and suspected of drunk-driving, you could be asked to perform one or more field sobriety tests.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

The three field sobriety tests that have been standardized by the NHTSA are the one-leg stand test, the walk-and-turn test and the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. By standardizing these tests, the NHTSA has devised a proper method to implement these tests. That is to say, in order for these tests to be done properly, a police officer must follow the protocol as published by NHTSA.

In order to complete a field sobriety test, you will be required to perform a task or series of tasks according to oral instructions given by a police officer. The one-leg stand test and the walk-and-turn test are both divided attention tests. That is to say, both of these tests require you to perform two tasks simultaneously. For the walk-and-turn test, you will be required to walk and turn around in a heel-to-toe fashion while counting your steps aloud. For the one-leg stand test, you will be required to maintain your balance while you have one foot raised in the air and count aloud.

Unlike the divided attention tests, the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test merely requires you to follow an object such as a pen or a flashlight with your eyes. Meanwhile, the police officer performing the test will watch your eyes for any involuntary jerking which can indicate intoxication.

Criticism of Field Sobriety Tests

Critics of field sobriety tests assert that the tests are subjective in nature and designed to yield a positive result. Additionally, critics argue that both the one-leg stand test and the walk-and-turn test require such a high level of coordination and concentration that they can be difficult for even a sober person to perform successfully. Finally, factors other than intoxication can cause a person to fail these tests. Medical conditions and physical limitations unrelated to intoxication can cause people to fail a field sobriety test.