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False DUI arrests highlight issue of field sobriety test accuracy

On Behalf of | Jan 2, 2024 | DUI

Many drivers in Orange County, Florida, may have heard stories about false arrests or sobriety tests that are difficult to pass when sober. Many drivers, though, don’t realize that taking field sobriety tests can introduce a serious risk of being wrongly arrested. Just last year, one individual was arrested for DUI only to have his breath and blood tests come back negative.

This kind of incident may be rare, but it shows that it is important for Florida drivers to recognize the risks involved in taking field sobriety tests. It is equally critical, though, for drivers to understand what their options are when it comes to refusing testing at the time of the arrest.

Field tests: not foolproof

Law enforcement officers have various means of determining whether someone is driving under the influence, including:

  • Blood tests
  • Breath tests
  • Urine tests
  • Field sobriety tests

Properly administered breath, blood and urine tests are generally considered reliable, but even properly administered field sobriety tests have drawn criticism. The wrongful arrest of one man last year underscores the limitations of these tests.

The 64-year old former firefighter was pulled over after he left his lane while driving home from swimming at a fitness center in Arizona. The officer demanded a field sobriety test, and the man warned that he was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery in two days and likely would struggle with the exercises. He did struggle and was ultimately arrested, but his breath and blood tests later came back negative.

An individual does not need to have physical health problems to fall victim to field sobriety tests, either. In 2008, a 42-year old South Carolina woman was pulled over under suspicion of DUI, according to the Wall Street Journal. She had trouble taking off her seatbelt and she hesitated during her field sobriety counting test. She spent two days in jail, and her urine test ultimately came back negative.

Incidents like this are alarming and may make drivers hesitant to cooperate with the authorities when accused of DUI. It is important, however, for Florida drivers to understand what their rights are when it comes to refusing tests during a DUI arrest.

Overview of implied consent

Florida drivers are legally permitted to refuse to take a field sobriety test without repercussions. However, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, drivers who refuse to take the breath test or urine test can face a one-year license suspension. People who have refused such a test more than once can be given an 18-month suspension with no possibility of a hardship license.

Florida drivers can technically refuse breath and urine tests, but in most cases there will be consequences. However, refusing a field sobriety test will not automatically lead to license suspension. It is crucial for Florida drivers to understand and remember this distinction.

Anyone who has been arrested for DUI should be polite to the arresting officer and contact an attorney as soon as possible to improve the likelihood of a favorable outcome.