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What are the standard field sobriety tests used by police in Florida?



Introduction to Standard Field Sobriety Tests in Florida

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are a critical tool used by police officers in Florida to assess whether a driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs. These tests are standardized to ensure consistency and reliability in determining a driver’s level of impairment. Understanding the standard field sobriety tests used by police in Florida can help you know what to expect if you are ever pulled over under suspicion of DUI.

History and Development of Field Sobriety Tests

The concept of field sobriety tests dates back to the 1970s when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sponsored research to identify the most effective tests for detecting impairment. The research led to the development of three standardized tests that are now widely used by law enforcement agencies across the country, including Florida.

For many years, law enforcement officers have utilized field sobriety tests to determine the impairment of a person’s driving due to alcohol influence. The performance of the person on those field sobriety tests was used by the officer to develop probable cause for arrest and as evidence in court. A wide variety of field sobriety tests existed, and there was a need to develop a battery of standardized valid tests.

Beginning in late 1975, extensive scientific research studies were sponsored by NHTSA through a contract with the Southern California Research Institute (SCRI) to determine which roadside field sobriety tests were the most accurate. SCRI published the following three reports:

  • California: 1977 (Lab)
  • California: 1981 (Lab and Field)
  • Maryland, D.C., VA, N.C., 1983 (Field)

SCRI traveled to law enforcement agencies throughout the United States to select the most commonly used field sobriety tests. Six tests were used in the initial stages of this study. Laboratory research indicated that three of these tests, when administered in a standardized manner, were a highly accurate and reliable battery of tests for distinguishing BACs above 0.10:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
  • Walk-and-Turn (WAT)
  • One-Leg Stand (OLS)

NHTSA analyzed the laboratory test data and found:

  • HGN: By itself, was 77% accurate
  • WAT: By itself, was 68% accurate
  • OLS: By itself, was 65% accurate
  • Combining HGN and WAT: An 80% accuracy can be achieved

The final phase of this study was conducted as a field validation. Standardized, practical, and effective procedures were developed. The tests were determined to discriminate in the field, as well as in the laboratory. The three standardized tests were found to be highly reliable in identifying subjects whose BACs were above 0.10. The results of the study unmistakably validated the SFSTs.

What are the Standard Field Sobriety Tests? The three standardized field sobriety tests used by police in Florida are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), Walk-and-Turn (WAT), and One-Leg Stand (OLS).

Three SFST validation studies were undertaken between 1995 and 1998:

  • Colorado – 1995: The first full field study that utilized law enforcement personnel experienced in the use of SFSTs. Correct arrest decisions were made 93% of the time based on the 3-test battery (HGN, WAT, OLS), substantially higher than the initial study results.
  • Florida – 1997: Undertaken to answer whether SFSTs are valid and reliable indices of the presence of alcohol under present-day traffic and law enforcement conditions. Correct decisions to arrest were made 95% of the time based on the 3-test battery (HGN, WAT, OLS).
  • San Diego – 1998: Conducted due to the nationwide trend towards lowering BAC limits to 0.08. Correct arrest decisions were made 91% of the time based on the 3-test battery (HGN, WAT, OLS) at the 0.08 level and above. The study strongly suggests that SFSTs also accurately discriminate BACs at 0.04 and above.

These studies provide clear evidence of the validity of the 3-test battery. To support arrest decisions at above or below 0.08, it strongly suggests that the SFSTs also accurately discriminate BACs at 0.04 and above.

For more detailed information about field sobriety tests and how they are administered, you may refer to our Ultimate Guide to FSEs in Florida.


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If you find yourself in a situation where you need to challenge the results of a field sobriety test, our DUI defense strategies can be invaluable. At Leppard Law, we specialize in defending against DUI charges and are committed to ensuring your rights are protected.

Are you concerned about the accuracy of these tests? Learn more about the common mistakes officers make when administering field sobriety tests. Understanding these errors can significantly impact your defense strategy.

Walk-and-Turn (WAT) Test

The Walk-and-Turn (WAT) test is another standard field sobriety test used by police officers in Florida. This test assesses a suspect’s ability to follow instructions and maintain balance while performing a series of heel-to-toe steps along a straight line.

Procedure for WAT Test

During the WAT test, the officer will give the suspect specific instructions, which include:

  • Placing one foot in front of the other, heel-to-toe
  • Taking nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line
  • Turning on one foot and taking nine heel-to-toe steps back

The officer will look for several indicators of impairment, such as:

  • Inability to maintain balance while listening to instructions
  • Starting the test before instructions are finished
  • Stopping while walking
  • Not touching heel-to-toe
  • Stepping off the line
  • Using arms to balance
  • Improper turn
  • Incorrect number of steps

If the suspect exhibits two or more of these clues, it is likely that they are impaired.

Walk-and-Turn Test

The Walk-and-Turn test is a divided attention test that requires the suspect to focus on both mental and physical tasks simultaneously. According to the Ultimate Guide to FSEs in Florida, this test is designed to mimic the multitasking required to drive a vehicle safely. The suspect must remember the instructions while performing the physical act of walking heel-to-toe.

What is the Walk-and-Turn Test? The Walk-and-Turn test is a field sobriety test where the suspect must walk in a straight line, heel-to-toe, and then turn and walk back the same way. It assesses balance, coordination, and the ability to follow instructions.

It’s crucial to understand that the Walk-and-Turn test is not without its challenges. Factors such as age, weight, and physical condition can significantly impact a person’s performance. For instance, individuals over 65 years old, those with back, leg, or middle ear problems, or those wearing inappropriate footwear may find this test particularly difficult. According to the Effectiveness of One Leg Stand Test, these physical limitations can lead to false indications of impairment.

Moreover, environmental conditions play a significant role in the accuracy of the Walk-and-Turn test. The test should ideally be conducted on a flat, non-slippery surface with ample space to complete the steps. However, real-world scenarios often involve uneven or hazardous surfaces, which can affect the results. Learn more about the impact of weather conditions on field sobriety tests.

Given these variables, it’s essential to consider the context in which the test is administered. If you believe that external factors affected your performance, consulting with a qualified DUI attorney can make a significant difference. At Leppard Law, we specialize in challenging HGN evidence and other field sobriety tests to ensure your rights are protected.

Another critical aspect of the Walk-and-Turn test is the potential for officer error. Officers must adhere to strict protocols when administering the test, and any deviation can compromise the test’s validity. Common mistakes include giving unclear instructions, not demonstrating the test correctly, or failing to account for environmental conditions. Discover more about the common errors by Florida officers in field sobriety testing.

The Walk-and-Turn test’s reliability is further scrutinized in the courtroom. Defense attorneys can challenge the test results by questioning the officer’s training, the test conditions, and the suspect’s physical limitations. Utilizing expert witnesses to discredit the test can be a powerful strategy in defending against DUI charges.

If you or a loved one has been subjected to a Walk-and-Turn test and are facing DUI charges, it’s crucial to seek legal advice immediately. Our team at Leppard Law is here to help you navigate the complexities of DUI defense. Contact us today at 407-476-4111 or visit our Contact page to schedule a free consultation.

One-Leg Stand (OLS) Test

The One-Leg Stand (OLS) test is the third standard field sobriety test used by police officers in Florida. This test evaluates a suspect’s balance and coordination by requiring them to stand on one leg while counting out loud.

Procedure for OLS Test

During the OLS test, the officer will instruct the suspect to:

  • Stand with their feet together and arms at their sides
  • Raise one leg approximately six inches off the ground
  • Keep both legs straight and arms at their sides
  • Count out loud starting from “one thousand and one” until told to stop

The officer will observe the suspect for several indicators of impairment, such as:

  • Swaying while balancing
  • Using arms to balance
  • Hopping to maintain balance
  • Putting the foot down

If the suspect shows two or more of these clues, it is likely that they are impaired.

What is the One-Leg Stand Test? The One-Leg Stand test is a field sobriety test where the suspect must stand on one leg while counting out loud. It assesses balance, coordination, and the ability to follow instructions.

The One-Leg Stand test is designed to divide the suspect’s attention between a mental task (counting out loud) and a physical task (standing on one leg). According to the Ultimate Guide to FSEs in Florida, this test is particularly effective in identifying impairment because it mimics the multitasking required to drive safely.

One-Leg Stand Test

It’s important to note that the One-Leg Stand test can be challenging for individuals with certain physical conditions. For example, those over 65 years old, individuals with back, leg, or middle ear problems, or those who are overweight by 50 or more pounds may find it difficult to perform this test accurately. According to the Effectiveness of One Leg Stand Test, these physical limitations can lead to false indications of impairment.

Furthermore, environmental conditions can significantly impact the accuracy of the One-Leg Stand test. Ideally, the test should be conducted on a flat, dry, and non-slippery surface. However, real-world scenarios often involve uneven or hazardous surfaces, which can affect the results. Learn more about the impact of weather conditions on field sobriety tests.

Given these variables, it’s crucial to consider the context in which the test is administered. If you believe that external factors affected your performance, consulting with a qualified DUI attorney can make a significant difference. At Leppard Law, we specialize in challenging HGN evidence and other field sobriety tests to ensure your rights are protected.

Another critical aspect of the One-Leg Stand test is the potential for officer error. Officers must adhere to strict protocols when administering the test, and any deviation can compromise the test’s validity. Common mistakes include giving unclear instructions, not demonstrating the test correctly, or failing to account for environmental conditions. Discover more about the common errors by Florida officers in field sobriety testing.

The One-Leg Stand test’s reliability is further scrutinized in the courtroom. Defense attorneys can challenge the test results by questioning the officer’s training, the test conditions, and the suspect’s physical limitations. Utilizing expert witnesses to discredit the test can be a powerful strategy in defending against DUI charges.

If you or a loved one has been subjected to a One-Leg Stand test and are facing DUI charges, it’s crucial to seek legal advice immediately. Our team at Leppard Law is here to help you navigate the complexities of DUI defense. Contact us today at 407-476-4111 or visit our Contact page to schedule a free consultation.


Reliability and Validity of Field Sobriety Tests

While the standard field sobriety tests used by police in Florida are designed to be reliable and valid indicators of impairment, they are not infallible. Various factors can affect a suspect’s performance on these tests, including medical conditions, nervousness, and even the type of footwear worn at the time of the test.

Factors Affecting Field Sobriety Test Results

Several factors can influence the accuracy of field sobriety test results, such as:

  • Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as inner ear problems or neurological disorders, can affect balance and coordination.
  • Nervousness: Being nervous or anxious can impact a suspect’s ability to perform the tests accurately.
  • Footwear: Wearing high heels, sandals, or boots with uneven soles can make it difficult to perform balance-related tests.
  • Environmental Conditions: Slippery or uneven surfaces can also affect test performance.

Given these factors, it is essential to consider the context in which the tests are administered and consult with a DUI attorney if you believe that your performance on the tests was affected by any of these factors.

Legal Books

Field sobriety tests are a critical component in DUI investigations, but they are not without their limitations. For example, the impact of footwear on test performance can be significant. High heels, sandals, or boots with uneven soles can make it challenging to perform balance-related tests accurately.

Additionally, medical conditions can significantly affect a person’s ability to perform these tests. Inner ear problems, neurological disorders, and other health issues can impair balance and coordination, leading to false indications of impairment.

What factors can affect field sobriety test results? Several factors, including medical conditions, nervousness, footwear, and environmental conditions, can influence the accuracy of field sobriety test results.

It’s also important to note that the purpose of field sobriety tests is to provide probable cause for a DUI arrest. However, the tests are not always conclusive, and their results can be challenged in court. An experienced DUI attorney can scrutinize the administration and results of these tests to build a robust defense.

Moreover, the common mistakes made by officers during the administration of field sobriety tests can further compromise their validity. Errors such as giving unclear instructions, not demonstrating the test correctly, or failing to account for environmental conditions can all impact the results.

Another crucial aspect to consider is the subjectivity of field sobriety test results. The officer’s observations play a significant role in determining whether a suspect is impaired. This subjectivity can introduce bias and errors, making it essential to have a legal expert review the case. Learn more about the subjectivity of FSE results and how it can affect your defense.

In addition to the factors mentioned above, weather conditions can also play a significant role in the accuracy of field sobriety tests. Slippery or uneven surfaces due to rain, snow, or ice can impact a suspect’s ability to perform the tests accurately, leading to false indications of impairment.

The Ultimate Guide to FSEs in Florida provides a comprehensive overview of the factors that can influence field sobriety test results and how to challenge them effectively. Understanding these factors can help you build a strong defense and protect your rights.

If you have been subjected to field sobriety tests and are facing DUI charges, it is crucial to seek legal advice immediately. Our team at Leppard Law specializes in challenging the validity of field sobriety tests and building robust defenses for our clients. Contact us today at 407-476-4111 or visit our Contact page to schedule a free consultation.

Remember, a DUI charge can have severe consequences on your personal and professional life. It is essential to have a knowledgeable and experienced attorney by your side to navigate the complexities of DUI defense. At Leppard Law, we are committed to providing personalized and effective legal representation to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

Don’t let a field sobriety test determine your future. Contact Leppard Law today and let us help you protect your rights and build a strong defense against your DUI charges. With our expertise and dedication, you can rest assured that you are in good hands.

For more information on field sobriety tests and DUI defenses, visit our guide on how to beat your DUI case and learn about the various strategies we use to challenge DUI charges effectively.

At Leppard Law, we understand the stress and anxiety that comes with facing a DUI charge. Our compassionate and experienced attorneys are here to support you every step of the way. Contact us today to discuss your case and explore your legal options.

Field sobriety tests are just one piece of the puzzle in a DUI case. With the right legal representation, you can challenge the validity of these tests and protect your future. Trust Leppard Law to provide the expertise and dedication you need to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

Don’t wait. Call us today at 407-476-4111 or visit our Contact page to schedule your free consultation. Let Leppard Law be your advocate and guide in navigating the complexities of DUI defense.


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What is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test?

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test is a standardized field sobriety test used by police officers to detect impairment. This test involves observing the involuntary jerking of the eyes as they follow a moving object, such as a pen or flashlight. Alcohol and certain drugs can cause exaggerated jerking, which indicates impairment.

How is the Walk-and-Turn (WAT) test performed?

The Walk-and-Turn (WAT) test is performed by instructing the suspect to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn on one foot, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back. The officer looks for signs of impairment, such as inability to maintain balance, not following instructions, and using arms to balance.

What does the One-Leg Stand (OLS) test assess?

The One-Leg Stand (OLS) test assesses a suspect’s balance and coordination. During this test, the suspect is instructed to stand on one leg while counting out loud. The officer observes for indicators of impairment, such as swaying, using arms to balance, hopping, and putting the foot down.

Can medical conditions affect field sobriety test results?

Yes, medical conditions can affect field sobriety test results. Issues such as inner ear problems, neurological disorders, and other health conditions can impair balance and coordination, leading to false indications of impairment. It’s important to consider these factors when evaluating test results.

What is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test? The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test is a standardized field sobriety test used by police officers to detect impairment. This test involves observing the involuntary jerking of the eyes as they follow a moving object, such as a pen or flashlight. Alcohol and certain drugs can cause exaggerated jerking, which indicates impairment.

How is the Walk-and-Turn (WAT) test performed? The Walk-and-Turn (WAT) test is performed by instructing the suspect to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn on one foot, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back. The officer looks for signs of impairment, such as inability to maintain balance, not following instructions, and using arms to balance.

What does the One-Leg Stand (OLS) test assess? The One-Leg Stand (OLS) test assesses a suspect’s balance and coordination. During this test, the suspect is instructed to stand on one leg while counting out loud. The officer observes for indicators of impairment, such as swaying, using arms to balance, hopping, and putting the foot down.

Can medical conditions affect field sobriety test results? Yes, medical conditions can affect field sobriety test results. Issues such as inner ear problems, neurological disorders, and other health conditions can impair balance and coordination, leading to false indications of impairment. It’s important to consider these factors when evaluating test results.

Explore additional practice areas we serve to understand the full scope of our legal expertise.

Ultimate Guide to FSEs in Florida Challenging HGN Evidence
Challenging Walk and Turn Test Effectiveness of One Leg Stand Test
Officer Mistakes in FSEs Junk Science Behind FSEs
Medical Conditions and FSEs Fighting DUI Based on Improper FSEs
Refusing Field Sobriety Tests Expert Witnesses for FSEs
Footwear and FSE Performance Weather Conditions and FSEs
Role of FSEs in DUI Cases Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
FSE Video Admissibility Weight and FSE Performance

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