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DUI: When and Where Must I Submit to a Roadside Test?

Cra pulled over by police for a ticket.

Cra pulled over by police for a ticket.

As a practicing DUI or DWI lawyer, in West Palm Beach, FL, I am always asked the question of “what gave the cop the right to get me out of my vehicle to suspect me of drunk driving?” The standard to compel an officer, in removing a driver from their vehicle on a DUI or DWI Stop is “reasonable suspicion” that the driver is under the influence of alcoholic beverages or a controlled substance to the extent that the driver’s normal faculties are impaired.

Well what gave the sheriff or law enforcement officer “reasonable suspicion”? The easy answer to that question is their gut feeling. But the arresting sheriff or police officer will write in their reports that they observed: (i) the driver’s breathe had alcohol coming from it; (ii) the driver’s eyes were red, glassy and watering or (iii) the driver’s speech was slurred.

Many times the driver will in fact say the magic words to develop probable cause for the arresting officer, when asked by the arresting sheriff as to how many drinks the driver had this evening. Most drivers say, I had two or three drinks at dinner or over a certain period of time; this response that the driver was drinking sometime prior and now driving gives the sheriff or law enforcement officer “reasonable suspicion” to remove the driver from the automobile and begin the roadside test. Yes, the magic words from the driver to the arresting sheriff or officer, in a Florida DUI or DWI, is when the driver admits to having consumed two or three beers or drinks while being behind the wheel of the car.

As a driver of a vehicle, we have no Constitutional obligation or moral obligation to tell law enforcement officers anything or give them any answers to their questions, when stopped. The law in Florida is clear that once a driver says he or she was drinking while behind the wheel of a vehicle, the law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion to begin the roadside sobriety test of the suspected impaired driver.

Another question I get asked a lot, as a DUI and DWI lawyer in Palm Beach, FL is: “should I have refused to do the roadside test when requested by the officer?” The answer to that depends on many factors. One factor is if the driver has any injuries or aliments to their legs, back, or body that can be medically substantiated through medical records and testimony from your treating physician that prevent you from doing the field sobriety exercises, which would lead to a refusal of the test. A second factor to consider is your ability to do any types of exercises let alone agility, memory, and divided attention exercises. If you are not physically fit or do not have the ability to do the exercises, then do not take part in the field sobriety exercises. A third factor to consider is the conditions of the weather at the time the road side tests are requested. If the weather outside is rainy, windy, or adverse in any way, then refuse to take the test. There are many other factors in this area as to whether or not a driver should take the roadside tests, but the general answer is the driver should refuse the roadside test! Then the next question always becomes, “well can they use my refusal of the roadside test against me?” The answer is yes!

The driver’s refusal to submit to roadside sobriety tests in Florida is admissible in court as a “conscious of guilt” argument. The conscious of guilt argument stands for the proposition that if a driver fails to take a field sobriety test then it is circumstantial evidence that the driver is impaired, because if the driver had nothing to hide he or she would do the test as requested by the arresting officer. This argument of “conscious of guilt” can be weakened and may in fact be kept out of evidence at a DUI trial, through a seasoned DUI or DWI trial lawyer if the proper motions and evidence is adduced at hearing or trial.

The DUI or DWI driver, during their legal consultation, will many times ask “are the roadside sobriety tests that the driver preformed going to be shown in open court to the judge and jury?” The answer to this question is yes! Evidence of the results of field sobriety tests are admissible in trial, by the prosecution or driver, as to whether or not the driver was under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance to point that their normal faculties are impaired. But the arresting sheriff or police officer may only testify as to their general observations of the field sobriety test results. The answers at trial, given by the sheriff or law enforcement officer, as to the results of the field sobriety test must be confined to “pass” or “fail,” so that answers do not improperly persuade the jury to believe the field sobriety test are some type of scientific recognized test and the arresting sheriff or law enforcement officer is an expert, because neither is true.

If you or a loved one has been arrested or given a citation for DUI or DWI in West Palm Beach, FL or Palm Beach County, FL you ought to telephone the experienced DUI trial lawyer Andrew D. Stine. West Palm Beach Attorney Andrew D. Stine has been beating DUI’s for over a decade in Palm Beach County, FL. West Palm Beach Criminal Attorney, Andrew D. Stine, has the experience that can help you save your driver’s license, jail time, increased insurance rates, devices being placed on your automobile to determine if the driver was drinking, DUI school, classes including mothers against drunk driving and a host of other problems associated with DUI arrest and convictions. HIRE STINE OR DO THE TIME!

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