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Is it legal to refuse to take field sobriety tests at a DUI stop?

by | Jul 9, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Whether you have ever been arrested for DUI or not, you are probably familiar with field sobriety tests. These tests, which are supposed to help the police officer decide if the driver they pulled over is past the legal limit for alcohol, are ubiquitous in movies and TV shows. If you have never gone through a traffic stop where the officer suspects you of drinking and driving, you may have seen a driver performing field sobriety tests under an officer’s observation on the side of the road.

When you are the one being pulled over, it can feel like the police have all the power. They are the ones who forced you to stop and hand over your documents. They stand over your driver’s side window, the lights from their squad car flashing, asking you if you have had any alcohol tonight. But you do have rights during a traffic stop, including the right to decline to undergo field sobriety tests, at least in Florida.

What implied consent means for Florida

Like most states, Florida has an implied consent law tied to the issuance of driver’s licenses. If you have a license, it means you consent to take a breath test and/or blood test for alcohol when ordered by a police officer with a reasonable suspicion that you have been drinking and driving. If you refuse one of these tests, your driver’s license will be suspended.

But that does not apply to field sobriety tests. Depending on the situation, politely declining an officer’s order to perform these tests might be your best move. The tests are controversial, in part because the officer often fails to take things like the evenness of the road, weather conditions, and whether the driver has a disability into account.

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