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Southwest Florida

Field Sobriety Examinations Lawyer

Field Sobriety Examinations (or F.S.E.’s) are a test used by Police Officers in the State of Florida to determine whether a driver is intoxicated.  When a driver is pulled over in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples, Port Charlotte or Punta Gorda at a certain point that vehicle stop turns from a typical pull over into a DUI investigation.  At that point the officer will be looking for signs of intoxication such as the odor of alcohol on the drivers breath, open or empty alcohol bottles in plain view in the car and blood shot or watery eyes.  If the officer believes the driver to be intoxicated they will ask them to step out of the car and engage in a Field Sobriety Examination. A Field Sobriety Examination is a physical test used by Officers to help them determine if the person taking the test is intoxicated.  The Field Sobriety Examination conducted by a Police Officer during a DUI investigation is a completely subjective test that is wholly reliant on the Officer’s opinion as to intoxication. No objective facts are ascertained by the Police Officer during the Field Sobriety Examination. Further, the Field Sobriety Examination in large part is a test of coordination, agility and balance. Different people have different levels of coordination and balance and will therefore perform differently on the test regardless of intoxication. The Field Sobriety Examination also tests esoteric skills and knowledge bases that practically speaking have nothing to do with sobriety. The Field Sobriety Examination may consist of the walk and turn test, standing on one leg, the alphabet test, finger to nose, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (or HGN).

Walk and Turn: In the walk and turn test the subject is directed to take a specific amount of steps, heel to toe and along a straight line in one direction.  After taking the steps the subject must turn on one foot and return in the opposite direction, heel to toe and along a straight line. During the walk and turn test the officer is looking for eight indicators of intoxication: 1) subject begins walking before instructions are finished; 2) subject cannot keep balance while being instructed; 3) subject stops while walking to regain balance; 4) subject steps off of the line; 5) subject does not successfully walk in the heel to toe formation; 6) subject uses arms to keep balance; 7) subject does not turn when instructed to; 8) subject takes an incorrect number of steps.

One Leg Stand: During the one leg stand the officer instructs the subject to lift their foot approximately six inches off the ground and count to thirty by way of one thousands (i.e. one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand). The officer is looking for four indicators of intoxication during the one leg stand test: 1) swaying during the test; 2) using arms to maintain balance; 3) hopping to maintain balance; 4) putting foot down before reaching thirty.

Alphabet Test: The alphabet test is known as the Romberg Test.  There are many variations of the alphabet test but the core component of the test is that the subject will be told to recite either the entire alphabet or a portion of the alphabet without singing. The subject may be asked, for instance, to start at the letter E and to stop at the letter T. The officer is looking for stumbling, stuttering, incorrect letters and in general a failure to perfectly complete the alphabet recitation task that was assigned.

Finger to Nose: During the finger to nose test the subject is told to tilt their head back, close their eyes and touch the tip of their finger to the tip of their nose. The officer will call out which hand he wants the subject to use when touching the tip of his nose (i.e. right, right, right, left, right, left, left).  The officer is looking to see if the person does not use the assigned hand or does not touch the tip of the finger to the tip of the nose as evidence of intoxication.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (or H.G.N) is an involuntary jerking of the eye that occurs naturally as the eyes gaze to the side. Asbent intoxication nystagmus (or involuntary jerking) generally occurs at high peripheral angles. When intoxicated nystagmus is sensitive and may occur at lower angles. The HGN test will generally also test your eyes while following or tracking an object. Intoxicated people generally will have difficulty smoothly tracking an object.  In the HGN test the officer observes a persons eyes as they follow an object such as a pen or flashlight horizontally with their eyes. During the HGN test the officer is looking at each eye for three indicators of intoxication: 1) inability for the eye to follow the object smoothly; 2) distinct jerking when the eye is at maximum; 3) if the angle when jerking begins is within 45 degrees of center.

Once you have failed the Field Sobriety Examination the officer will place you under arrest and ask you to submit to a breathalyzer examination. There are many ways to attack the Field Sobriety Examinations and the officers testimony that: A) you failed the Field Sobriety Examination you were given and; B) the field sobriety examination is an accurate indicator of intoxication.  The lawyers at Viacava & Cantor are experienced trial attorneys who know how to attack the Field Sobriety Examination during cross examination of the officer.  Contact a Criminal Defense DUI Lawyer from Viacava & Cantor today at 239-672-8934 if you have been charged with DUI in Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral, Port Charlotte or Punta Gorda.

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