It is important to understand your rights and options when you are pulled over or stopped at a DUI checkpoint. If a law enforcement officer suspects you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they will likely ask you to complete a field sobriety test. These assessments will be used to determine whether you are unlawfully intoxicated.
While you have the right to refuse a field sobriety test in Florida, doing so can result in serious consequences. Below, we review your options when you are the subject of a DUI investigation.
What Should I Do If I Am Pulled over for Suspected DUI in Florida?
No one plans to drive while intoxicated. Maybe you had one too many drinks at a social gathering and gauged you were okay to drive. Should a law enforcement officer attempt to pull you over, however, you will need to keep a level head and take steps to protect yourself and your rights. Use your turn signal, come to an expedient but safe stop, and turn off your engine.
You are obligated to provide the law enforcement officer with your name, driver’s license, and vehicle registration information. You do not have to answer any other questions. Avoid responding to leading questions like “Do you know why I pulled you over?” or “Have you been drinking this evening?” You may be tempted to claim you drank some time ago, but admitting you drank at all gives the officer reason to suspect you were driving while intoxicated.
You should comply with most officer requests. If they ask you to step out of the vehicle, do not become belligerent or argumentative. Politely follow their instructions.
At this point, the officer may attempt to initiate one of several field sobriety tests before deciding whether to make an arrest. You have an important decision to make: Should you try and complete the test, or should you enforce your rights and refuse? The type of field sobriety test being requested may influence how you choose to proceed.
What Types of Field Sobriety Tests Are Used by Florida Law Enforcement?
Not all field sobriety tests are created equal, and some are arguably less than accurate. Note that field sobriety tests are distinct from and treated differently than chemical tests, which include urine tests, blood tests, and breathalyzer tests.
Field sobriety tests commonly used by law enforcement include:
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN). You will need to track a moving object with your eyes.
- The One-Leg Stand Test. You must balance on one leg for an extended period.
- The Walk and Turn Test. You will need to walk heel-to-toe in a straight line before turning around and repeating the walk in the other direction.
It is possible to fail a field sobriety test despite being completely sober. Not everyone has perfect balance or great hand-eye coordination, especially in a high-stakes, stressful situation. If you are absolutely confident you are sober, it may be in your best interest to decline a field sobriety test. If the officer still believes you are intoxicated and indicates they will arrest you, it may be prudent to request a chemical test, instead.
If you believe you may be intoxicated, you may want to consider refusing the field sobriety test. However, you should fully understand the potential ramifications of doing so.
What Happens When You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Florida?
Under the law, you do not have to take a field sobriety test if you have not been arrested. You can respectfully refuse to participate and explain you were told by your legal representative to decline. Unfortunately, refusing a field sobriety test will likely trigger further suspicion and may result in your arrest.
Before or after an arrest, an officer may ask you to submit to chemical testing, such as a breathalyzer test. Again, field sobriety tests and chemical tests are regulated differently. Under Florida’s Implied Consent Law, all motorists must submit to chemical testing when it is lawfully requested. If you refuse a field sobriety test, there is a good chance you will be asked to take a chemical test.
Refusing a chemical test will result in immediate penalties, including a one-year driver’s license suspension for a first offense. A second or third refusal will likely be considered a misdemeanor and can result in an 18-month license suspension, up to $1,000 in fines, up to one year in jail.
It may still be best to refuse a chemical test if you believe you may be intoxicated. Keep in mind that you will not be able to qualify for Florida’s diversion program if you refuse a chemical test.
Get Experienced DUI Defense Representation
If you have been arrested for DUI after refusing to take a field sobriety test, our defense attorneys at Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A. can provide the dedicated guidance and support you need. We have helped our clients get DUI charges reduced or dropped entirely. Our team can also help you explore your legal options if you are facing penalties for refusing a chemical test.
Do not wait to seek professional legal representation. Call (727) 245-9009 or contact us online to request a confidential consultation.