When police in Jacksonville and other cities in Florida stop a driver and suspect he/she is driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), the police officer will ask the driver if he/she will submit to field sobriety tests, which are very subjective exercises that are supposed to be designed to determine if the driver is impaired by alcohol. A driver has an unconditional right to refuse these field sobriety tests. When deciding whether to submit to a request to a police officer’s request to take field sobriety tests, the driver should consider several things, including: 1) the test is completely subjective and the judge is the police officer who already thinks the driver is intoxicated, 2) the field sobriety tests can be very difficult for anyone as they test balance and coordination in circumstances a normal person is not used to in a situation where most people would be nervous and 3) if the police officer does not bother to videotape the field sobriety tests (and they often do not), the driver does not have much of a way to refute the police officer’s subjective opinion that the driver failed.
However, there can be a downside to refusing to take the field sobriety tests. That downside really is not that the driver is more likely to get arrested. If the police officer thinks the driver is drunk and is asking for the field sobriety tests, the police officer is probably going to make the arrest no matter what happens going forward. The downside is that after the driver gets arrested and charged with DUI, the fact that the driver refused the field sobriety tests can be used against the driver at the DUI trial, and the prosecutor will obviously argue that the driver refused because he/she knew he/she would fail due to his/her alcohol level. Of course, the driver may have perfectly good reasons for refusing the field sobriety tests, i.e. an injury that would affect balance and coordination, too nervous, the encounter was not being videotaped, the fact that the police officer already made up his/her mind that the driver was drunk, etc., and the criminal defense lawyer would have an opportunity to argue those defenses at the DUI trial as well.