DUI Tests in Tampa, FL
Field Sobriety Tests, Chemical Testing & DUI Evidence
DUI tests are used to determine a driver’s blood alcohol level (BAL). In Florida, a driver can be arrested if they are found driving with a BAL of 0.08% or if their abilities are impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. When a Florida driver receives a license, they give their implied consent to submit to chemical testing in the event of an arrest. Refusal will result in license suspension and other penalties—including a misdemeanor charge.
To determine a driver's intoxication, Tampa police officers use specific tests:
Field Sobriety Tests
There are three “standardized” field sobriety tests. These include the walk and turn, one-leg stand, and horizontal gaze nystagmus. All of these are administered to test the driver’s balance, coordination, and ability to listen to and follow directions. Poor performance is considered a sign of intoxication or impairment.
Another form of DUI testing uses a breathalyzer, which can be administered roadside or at the police station. The driver blows into the breathalyzer, which measures the concentration of alcohol in the driver’s lungs to determine their blood alcohol level. Breathalyzers are subject to user error and malfunction, so even a “failed” breath test is not necessarily a guarantee that a driver is guilty of DUI. Test results can be challenged.
A blood exam is considered one of the most accurate forms of testing a driver’s BAL. This is always done at 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.
When a driver is pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence of drugs (including illegal and prescription), they 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.
Challenging DUI Tests
DUI tests are imperfect. They can be challenged. As Tampa DUI defense attorneys with more than 40 years of combined experience, we at Thomas & Paulk know the science behind DUI tests and how it can be challenged in court. We know what mistakes are made and how to expose these, enabling us to achieve the best possible results for our clients — even when the odds seem stacked against them.
Learn more about how we challenge DUI test results by contacting our Tampa law firm for your free initial consultation: (813) 321-7323.
Hearing that you've failed field sobriety tests or that you blew a .09 on a breathalyzer might make your case seem helpless, but DUI tests aren't perfect. They can be challenged, but it takes a team that knows the science and the law behind Florida DUI charges. At Thomas & Paulk, we have the know-how and the resources to expose improper DUI testing.
The Inaccuracy of Field Sobriety Testing
The three most common “standardized” field sobriety tests are the walk and turn, one-leg stand, and horizontal gaze nystagmus. Police officers may also require drivers to perform additional non-standardized tests—including the finger-to-nose test, reciting the alphabet, counting backward, and more. If you were arrested after performing a field sobriety test, 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.
The following are examples of other field sobriety tests:
- Walk in a straight line, heel to toe, for nine steps, turn on one foot, and walk back the same way.
- Recite the alphabet and/or count backward.
- Stand on one foot while holding the other foot six inches off the ground and counting for 30 seconds.
- Follow a slowly moving object with your eyes while the officer looks for a side-to-side jerking movement in your eyes.
- Stand with feet together while tipping the head backward.
- Count the number of fingers raised by the officer.
- Close the eyes and touch the nose with the finger.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) oversaw research that resulted in 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 enough to prove a driver's intoxication beyond a doubt, which is the burden of proof in criminal court.
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.
Sober Drivers Can Fail Field Sobriety Tests
Any person, sober or not, may fail for reasons that have nothing to do with alcohol or drugs. When you read the descriptions of these tests, it is easy to see how a driver could fail regardless of his or her level of intoxication. Can you stand on one leg for 30 seconds without swaying or putting your foot down? Can you walk heel to toe at night, in uncomfortable shoes, without using your arms for balance? These tests measure things that any person, sober or not, may have difficulty doing.
Here are some factors that could affect your performance on a field sobriety test, none of which have anything to do with alcohol or drugs:
- A medical condition or injury that affects balance or coordination
- Nervousness, anxiety, or fear
- High-heeled shoes
- Bright lights, loud sounds, or other distractions
- Unclear instructions on how to perform a test
- Challenges with language, such as an officer who gives instructions in English to a person who does not speak the language very well or at all
What’s more, the officer who administers the test must make sure it is in the right type of environment, that he or she is properly trained, and that the test is accurately scored.
Does Timing of DUI Tests Affect the Results?
The timing of DUI testing is an important factor in any drunk driving case. The outcome of a case may depend on the amount of time that passed between operating a vehicle to the time the breath or blood test was taken. One's level of intoxication may rise or fall depending on when they had their last drink and how much time has elapsed since they began drinking. If a person is driving while it is still on the rise, the test result will be higher later on.
It may take up to four hours for a one's system to absorb and eliminate alcohol. This will vary depending on age, weight, diet, and gender.
Challenging DUI Tests Results
There are many ways in which DUI tests can be inaccurate or administered poorly. Law enforcement is held to high standards of evidence gathering. Sometimes, these standards are not upheld, either out of the emotion during the arrest, improper training, or some other factor. When this occurs and it affects the accuracy of field sobriety testing, blood testing, or a breathalyzer, your lawyer may be able to get the DUI charge dropped altogether.
Your Tampa DUI defense lawyer may question the following:
- How 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.
At Thomas & Paulk, we can do a complete investigation of your situation and determine if any errors or violations occurred in the process. 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 an acquittal or get a case thrown out of court. If you have been accused of drinking and driving, don't hesitate to contact our firm for a free, private DUI consultation.
DUI tests can be challenged. Call (813) 321-7323 to learn how!
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