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In Florida, Refusal to Submit to Field Sobriety Exercises Might Not be Admissible in DUI Case

When a police officer pulls a driver over in Florida and believes that the driver is impaired from alcohol or drugs, that police officer will begin a DUI investigation. We would like to say that this is an objective evaluation of whether the driver is impaired, but most often, it appears that the police officer has already formed a conclusion that the driver is impaired and then tries to develop evidence to support that foregone conclusion. Rather than viewing the evidence objectively, the police officer often draws conclusions with the preconceived notion that the driver is impaired and guilty of DUI.

In other words, two people can watch a person walk a straight line and come to different conclusions. But, if one of those people already believes the driver is impaired from alcohol or drugs, he will very likely view the evaluation differently from someone who has no idea there is a DUI investigation taking place. This is particularly try if the former person’s job is to make DUI arrests.

During DUI investigations in Florida, the police officer will almost always ask the driver to participate in field sobriety exercises. These are completely voluntary and can be refused without a direct negative impact on one’s driving privileges. Most importantly, they are completely subjective, meaning whether the driver passes or fails depends completely on the opinion of the officer, who already thinks the driver is impaired or he/she would not be going through this in the first place.

One way to level the playing field is to have the field sobriety test performance recorded on video. Not every police car has a video camera. If you get stopped for DUI in Florida, I would really think twice before agreeing to perform field sobriety tests if the police car does not have a video recording everything. You might think you performed perfectly, but without video, if the police officer said you failed, which is likely, then it is your word against his/hers and you may not want your freedom depending on that outcome.

If you do refuse to perform the field sobriety exercises, the prosecutor can normally use that refusal against you in court. The prosecutor can argue to a jury that you refused because you knew you were too impaired to pass them. Of course, if there was no camera, a DUI defendant can respond by saying he/she refused because there was no objective basis for evaluating the tests for a jury to see in court.

When a police officer asks a DUI suspect to submit to the field sobriety tests, he/she is supposed to tell the suspect that there may be negative consequences if the driver refuses, such as the state using the refusal against the suspect at the DUI trial. If the police officer fails to do that and the suspect had a logical reason to refuse the field sobriety tests other than being too impaired, the criminal defense lawyer can file a motion to exclude evidence of the refusal at the DUI trial. In some DUI cases in Jacksonville, Florida, this evidence of a refusal to submit to field sobriety exercises has been excluded from the DUI trial.