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Can drivers refuse a field sobriety test in Florida?

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2023 | DUI/DWI Defense

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Lee County had 1,289 DUI arrests in 2020. In Florida, when officers pull over drivers under suspicion of impaired driving, they may ask them to perform field sobriety tests.

These tests assess a driver’s physical and mental abilities, aiding officers in determining whether there is probable cause to make a DUI arrest. However, drivers should understand if they can legally refuse a field sobriety test in the state.

The legal ramifications

Florida’s implied consent law does not extend to field sobriety tests. Implied consent laws in Florida primarily relate to chemical tests, like breath or blood tests, which officers typically conduct after a DUI arrest. Regarding field sobriety tests, these tests are voluntary, and drivers can politely decline without facing immediate legal repercussions.

Reasons to refuse

There are several valid reasons why a driver might choose to refuse a field sobriety test:

Accuracy Concerns: Field sobriety tests are subjective and subject to interpretation by the administering officer. Drivers may worry that factors like nervousness or physical impairments could lead to inaccurate results.

Self-Incrimination: Participating in a field sobriety test may provide evidence that prosecutors could use against the driver in a DUI case. Refusing helps avoid potentially self-incriminating evidence.

Physical Limitations: Some individuals may have physical or medical conditions that can affect their performance on field sobriety tests. Refusing can help prevent inaccuracies due to these conditions.

It is essential to note that a driver’s refusal to take a field sobriety test is typically not admissible in court as evidence against them in a DUI case. This differs from chemical tests, where refusal can result in administrative penalties, such as license suspension.

Even if refusing to take tests, a driver should maintain a respectful and cooperative attitude when interacting with law enforcement during a traffic stop. Being argumentative or confrontational can lead to further complications and potentially result in an arrest on suspicion of DUI.