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Challenging The FST Results In A Florida DUI


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has approved three Field Sobriety Tests for use in DUI arrests. Although most scientists claim these tests reliably indicate whether the subject is intoxicated, each test has some serious flaws, as outlined below.

FST results are critical in both test and non-test DUI prosecutions, so regardless of the type of case, these results are important to Tampa DUI lawyers. In test cases, prosecutors use the FST results to serve as probable cause for the arrest. If the defendant refuses to provide a chemical sample, prosecutors must also use test results to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, in all cases, prosecutors typically use the FST results in drivers’ license suspension hearings. These hearings are separate, non-criminal proceedings which are related to the DUI prosecution.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

The follow-my-finger HGN test is probably the most common, and least reliable, DUI Field Sobriety Test.

It’s the most common one because officers usually start with the HGN test. Most defendants readily agree to perform this test, because it does not feel like a sobriety test. After the HGN test, many defendants get the sense that they are digging themselves into a hole, so they refuse to perform further sobriety tests.

Nystagmus, which is basically involuntary pupil movements at certain viewing angles, is a reliable indicator of intoxication. But intoxication is not the only cause of nystagmus. In fact, it’s not even the leading cause. Nystagmus is a condition that’s also known as lazy eye. Many people have a lazy eye. But the symptoms are so mild they don’t know they have it. These people automatically fail the HGN whether they are drunk or sober.

One-Leg Stand

Roughly these same issues plague the OLS. Anyone with any mobility impairment cannot possibly elevate one leg for two or three seconds, let alone ten or fifteen seconds, without showing some intoxication clues. These clues include:

  • Using hands and/or arms for balance,
  • Swaying,
  • Shifting weight,
  • Moving the elevated leg, and
  • Putting the elevated down too quickly.

Furthermore, many officers testify that the defendant “failed” the OLS based on a technicality, like holding the leg at the wrong angle. In these situations, jurors must decide for themselves whether the defendant passed or failed the test.

Walk and Turn

In many ways, the WAT is a lot like the OLS. Both tests are divided attention tests. They measure physical dexterity, which is the ability to perform the test, as well as mental acuity, or the ability to follow instructions. Mentally, intoxicated individuals cannot multitask in this way.

Usually, these defendants take about two dozen heel-to-toe steps. Since officers look for intoxication clues on each step, there are also about two dozen chances to fail this test. So, success is almost impossible, at least from the officer’s perspective.

Test conditions often come into play as well. It’s very difficult to walk heel-to-toe while wearing anything other than athletic shoes. Additionally, it’s much easier to walk an actual line, like a parking lot stripe. So, officers often intentionally deprive defendants of this opportunity.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Hillsborough County Attorney

Most DUI cases hinge on the FST results, in one way or another. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start fighting for you.

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