DUI Tests in Tampa, FL
Field Sobriety, Chemical Tests & DUI Evidence
Testing is a crucial part of any DUI case, whether it involves alcohol or drug use. DUI tests are used to determine a driver’s blood alcohol level (BAL). This is often gathered by law enforcement during the arrest and is used to determine if the driver was impaired by alcohol. In the state of Florida, a driver can be arrested if they are found driving with a BAL of 0.08 percent or if the officer has probable cause to believe a driver is impaired.
When a Florida driver receives a driver’s license, they are giving implied consent to submit to chemical testing in the event of an arrest. Refusing a chemical test will mean that the driver will face license suspension and other penalties—including a misdemeanor charge.
To determine the BAL, police officers utilize specific tests, including:
- Field Sobriety Tests: One common form of DUI testing is field sobriety tests administered before an arrest. There are countless types of tests, but only three “standardized” field sobriety tests. These include the walk and turn (WAT), one-leg stand (OLS), and horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN). All of these are administered to test the driver’s ability to listen to directions, focus, and move with coordination.
- Breath Test: Another common form of DUI testing uses a breathalyzer, which can be administered roadside or at the police station. All the driver does is blows into the breathalyzer, which then measures the concentration of alcohol within the driver’s lungs to determine the blood alcohol level. Breathalyzers are subject to error, so it is easier to challenge the results in court.
- Blood Testing: One of the most accurate forms of testing a driver’s BAL is with a blood exam. This is always done at either a hospital or police station by a certified individual who draws a blood sample and sends it off to the lab for testing. There are still ways in which a blood test may be faulty—for example, if the sample was not properly stored.
- Drug Testing: When a driver is pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence of drugs (including illegal and prescription), he or she may be required to take a blood or urine test to determine the presence of drugs in their system. However, the flaw regarding these tests is while they can detect the presence of drugs, it cannot determine when these drugs were taken or even if the driver was affected while driving.
Does the Timing of DUI Tests Affect the Results?
One factor that your lawyer will investigate to challenge the DUI test results is the time they were taken. The outcome of your case will depend on the amount of time that passes between you operating a vehicle to the time the breath or blood test was taken.
Your level of intoxication may rise or fall depending on when you had your last drink and how much time has elapsed since you began drinking. If you are driving while it is still on the rise, the result of the test will be higher than what it was when you were driving. In some cases, it will take up to 4 hours for a person to absorb alcohol and eliminate it from their system. This will vary depending on age, weight, diet, and gender.
The Inaccuracy of Field Sobriety Testing
We’ve established that field sobriety tests are common, but are they accurate? Can they really prove that a driver is under the influence?
The three most common "standardized" field sobriety tests are:
- Walk and Turn (WAT)
- One Leg Stand (OLS)
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
In addition to the DUI tests, police officers may require drivers to perform additional non-standardized field sobriety tests—including the finger to nose test, reciting the alphabet, counting backward, and balancing tests. If you were arrested after performing a field sobriety test, it is important to contact an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. With our experience in this field, our team understands how to challenge the different types of field sobriety tests. Even when administered by the book, they are not 100% accurate.
The following are examples of other field sobriety tests that may be administered:
- Recite the alphabet or a part of the alphabet
- Recite the alphabet backward
- Count backward
- Stand with feet together while tipping the head backward
- Count the number of fingers raised by the officer
- Finger-to-nose test: close the eyes and touch the nose with the finger
- Hand-pat test: extend a hand, palm, upward. Place the other hand on top of the first hand, palm downward. Rotate the upper hand and pat the lower hand with the front and then the back of the hand.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) oversaw research that resulted in the development of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.
They found that the horizontal gaze nystagmus had a 77% accuracy rate, the walk and turn a 68% accuracy rate, and the one-leg stand a 65% accuracy rate—and when all three were used together, they were correct only 82% of the time. These statistics show that field sobriety tests are not sufficient evidence to charge a driver with a DUI offense.
There are a few issues that add to the inaccuracy of these tests:
- The use of non-standardized field sobriety tests;
- Improper instructions by the officer administering the test;
- Improper grading of a driver’s performance on a test or tests;
- Improperly administered tests; and
- Factors not related to alcohol that influence a driver’s performance
Challenging Tests Results with Aggressive DUI Attorneys in Tampa, FL
There are many ways in which these tests can be inaccurate or administered poorly. Law enforcement is held to high standards of evidence gathering, and sometimes these standards are not upheld, either out of the emotion during the arrest, improper training, or some other factor. When this occurs, it means the prosecution's case is vulnerable and your lawyer may be able to get the DUI charge dropped altogether.
Your Tampa DUI defense lawyer may question the following:
- The way in which a test was administered
- The officer’s evaluation of performance on a test
- The qualifications of the individual who conducted the test
- The timing of the DUI test
- The devices used to conduct the tests
- Any other factors that could have affected the DUI test results
Our team of DUI defense attorneys can do a complete investigation of your situation and determine if any mistakes, errors, or violations occurred in the process. At Thomas & Paulk, our Tampa DUI lawyers know that no evidence is immune to challenge, and there is a long distance between an arrest and a conviction. After thousands of cases handled, we know what it takes to win acquittal or get a case thrown out of court. If you have been accused of drinking and driving, you should not hesitate to contact our firm as soon as possible.
We know the ways in which these forms of evidence can be challenged, and we know how to protect your legal rights. Call us today.
Drunk driving cases may or many not require a formal trial. We discuss what most can expect in terms of the process and duration of their DUI case.
At Thomas & Paulk, one of our primary focuses is on the defense of DUI charges. In fact, we are recognized throughout the Tampa area as one of the premier DUI defense law firms. Our team is well-versed in this area of the law and has a wide-expanse of experience in helping our clients fight against such charges.
It doesn’t matter if this is your first offense or your third, you can count on our firm to protect your legal rights. Often, our defense starts with recounting with you how the police officer came to stop you in the first place and how he or she came to believe you may be under the influence of alcohol. If the stop was illegal, or the tests were improperly administered, we may be able to argue for the dismissal of that evidence in court, helping your chances of a dropped charge.
If you would like to learn more about how our team can help, contact us today.
If you're arrested for DUI, you only have 10 days to schedule a DMV hearing where you can fight to save your license.
A blood alcohol reading of 0.15% or more can warrant an aggravated DUI charge with harsher penalties.
Each year, Hillsborough County issues around 4,000 DUI citations. Out of these, more than 3,000 are found guilty.
Per Florida's zero-tolerance policy, anyone under the age of 21 who tests positive for any measurable blood alcohol can be charged with DUI.