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DUI Tests

Our Lawyers Can Help You Navigate Your Case

If you have been arrested for a DUI that involves a blood, breath, urine, or field sobriety test, contact Morris Law Firm, P.A. to fight the prosecution in St. Petersburg or the surrounding areas.

DUI Blood Tests

The DUI officer will usually request a blood test under one of the following circumstances:

  1. When the driver submits to a breath test and then requests a blood test
  2. When the driver consents to a blood test after being involved in a motor vehicle accident or must be taken to the hospital for any other reason, and the breath test is not available or is impractical
  3. When the law enforcement officers request a forced blood draw after obtaining probable cause to believe that the suspect caused an accident or crash while under the influence of alcohol and caused serious bodily injury to themselves or another person
  4. When the prosecutor is able to obtain blood samples collected at the hospital during the course of treatment (often called “hospital blood”)

Often, these DUI blood test cases require effectively managing your right to a speedy trial because of the delays the prosecutor may face in obtaining the blood test results. Additionally, motions to suppress or exclude the blood test results may apply.

DUI Breath Test with a Reading over 0.08

Many people assume that if they blew over the legal limit of 0.08, then it is impossible to avoid a DUI conviction. However, in many of these cases involving blows over 0.08, and even blows over 0.15, the prosecutor will reduce the charge to a less serious charge such as “reckless driving.” Avoiding a DUI conviction can save you thousands of dollars in fines, court costs, driver’s license suspension, and increased car insurance rates.

The Breath Test Machine is Not Always Accurate

The breath test machine or instrument used in Florida is called the Intoxilyzer 8000. At Morris Law Firm, P.A., our attorney Melinda Morris is involved in the fight to exclude the breath test results in her cases unless and until the prosecutor turns over the “source code” of the machine. Similar motions have been successful in Sarasota County, Manatee County, Orange County, and Seminole County, FL.

By filing and litigating innovative motions to exclude or suppress breath test evidence, your attorney can often help you obtain the best results.

DUI Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are a series of standardized physical and/or cognitive performance tests given to a driver under reasonable suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) to provide law enforcement with probable cause to arrest the driver. The results of the FSTs (including the video recording of the tests) may be used as evidence in court.

The standard Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) include:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
  • Walk-and-Turn (WAT)
  • One-Leg Stand (OLS)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed a standardized system for law enforcement to administer field sobriety tests. Law enforcement agencies in the Tampa Bay area use the NHTSA-recommended field sobriety tests.

While the three standard tests above are most commonly used, local law enforcement agencies have the authority to introduce other tests as they see fit.

These may include:

  • Finger-to-Nose Test
  • Romberg Alphabet Test
  • Counting Test

The tests above are typically used when a driver discloses during the course of a DUI investigation that they have physical ailments or limitations that prohibit them from successfully completing the standardized field sobriety tests.

How Are Field Sobriety Tests Invoked?

When driving, there are several ways to come into contact with a law enforcement officer who may then have reasonable suspicion to conduct field sobriety tests to determine if you are driving under the influence.

These include:

  • Automobile accidents
  • DUI Roadblocks / Sobriety Checkpoints
  • Law enforcement officer observations (erratic driving, swerving, weaving, drifting, etc.)
  • Reports of erratic driving
  • Another traffic offense

When a driver is contacted by law enforcement, the officer is looking for signs of impairment that will provide reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigation for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). During the initial interaction with the driver, the officer looks for bloodshot or glassy appearance of the eyes, any odor of alcohol on the breath, or slurred or slow speech. If the officer observes any of these signs of impairment (or if they have already established reasonable suspicion from one of the events listed above) they can claim reasonable suspicion to conduct field sobriety tests (FSTs) to attempt to prove impairment.

What to Expect During DUI Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)

The law enforcement officer will typically ask the driver to step out of the vehicle and indicate that they are conducting a DUI investigation. At this time, the law enforcement officer will begin a battery of field sobriety tests.

You have no legal obligation to perform field sobriety tests. If you refuse to take Field Sobriety Tests, it is likely you will still be arrested for DUI. Ultimately, however, your case will be more difficult for the State Attorney’s Office to prosecute, given the lack of field sobriety test evidence.

If the driver submits to the field sobriety tests, they can expect the following:

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

The officer will first conduct a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test by stating, “I am now going to check your eyes.” In fact, the officer is not checking the subject’s eyes as in an eye exam but looking for a sign of impairment — specifically nystagmus. Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking or bouncing of the eyeball over which an individual has absolutely no control. Consumption of alcohol or other depressants limits the ability of the brain to correctly control eye muscles, therefore causing the nystagmus. Officers are trained to administer a HGN Test by having the subject follow an object horizontally across their gaze.

The officer is looking for the subject’s eyeball to jerk or bounce as they track the object. The officer is looking for any indicators of impairment:

  • Any lack of smooth pursuit while tracking the object
  • Any distinct nystagmus at maximum deviation
  • Any onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees

The officer may also have the subject complete a vertical nystagmus test to check for the influence of high doses of alcohol, depressants, or inhalants, and the consumption of the drug phencyclidine (PCP).

Research indicates that a majority of individuals who exhibit signs of nystagmus in the test will have a BAC of 0.10 or greater.

Walk-and-Turn (WAT) Test
The Walk-and-Turn Test is a divided attention test — the subject must follow verbal instructions while also performing physical movements. Impaired drivers may have difficulty with tests requiring their attention to be divided between simple mental and physical exercises. In the Walk-and-Turn Test, the subject is instructed to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. After taking the steps, the subject must turn on one foot and return in the same manner in the opposite direction. In many cases, they may also be asked to count out the steps in the exercise as the complete it.

The officer is looking for eight indicators of impairment:

  • Inability to keep balance while listening to the instructions
  • Beginning before the instructions are finished
  • Stopping while walking to regain balance
  • Not touching heel-to-toe
  • Stepping off the line
  • Using arms to balance
  • Making an improper turn
  • Taking an incorrect number of steps

The officer will note when the subject exhibits two or more indicators of impairment, as research indicates that a majority of individuals who exhibit two or more indicators will have a BAC of 0.08 or greater.

One-Leg Stand (OLS) Test
The One-Leg Stand Test is also a divided attention test. The officer will instruct the subject to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands (one thousand-one, one thousand-two, etc.) until they are told to put their foot down. The officer times the subject for 30 seconds.

The officer is looking for indicators of impairment such as:

  • Swaying while balancing
  • Using arms to balance
  • Hopping to maintain balance
  • Putting the foot down

The officer will note when the subject exhibits two or more indicators of impairment, as research indicates that a majority of individuals who exhibit two or more indicators will have a BAC of 0.08 or greater.

Based on the results of the field sobriety tests, the officer may have probable cause to arrest the subject. In this case, the driver is placed under arrest for DUI and, per Florida Statute 316.1932 (1)(a)1.a., requested to submit to, “an approved chemical test or physical test,” which is usually a test to determine the alcoholic content of their blood or breath. The breath test may be conducted by the officer if a mobile breath test device is available to them (portable or preliminary breath tester or PBT), or in a mobile breath alcohol testing vehicle (“BAT Mobile”), or at the police station (conducted using the Intoxilyzer 8000), typically after a 20-minute observation period. Any result of .08 or above is considered to be legally impaired under Florida law.

Florida Law and DUI Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)

Florida law allows a law enforcement officer to request that a driver take field sobriety tests when the officer has reasonable suspicion that the driver is under the influence. There is no law or Florida State Statute that requires a Florida driver to submit to field sobriety tests.

Issues / Potential Defenses

There are many ways to contest the results of field sobriety tests. As noted above, one way to make it more difficult for the State Attorney’s Office to prosecute your case is to refuse the field sobriety tests altogether. This way, the State will have less evidence to prove that the driver was in fact under the influence.

Field sobriety tests are heavily subjective, and rely on the observations, opinions, prejudices, and training of the arresting officer.

Results of a field sobriety test may be challenged in this regard based on:

  • Inadequate officer training
  • Failure to properly administer the tests
  • Inappropriate grading of the tests
  • False positive results

Additionally, drivers have a host of physical, mental, and environmental factors that may influence the results of a field sobriety test. Results of a field sobriety test may be challenged based on:

  • Medical condition or injury affecting the ability to successfully complete the tests
  • Age – Those 65 or older may have issues successfully completing the tests
  • Gender
  • Weight – Those over 50 pounds overweight may have issues successfully completing the tests
  • Hearing – Those with hearing conditions may not be able to clearly hear the instructions
  • Environment – Lighting, noise, ground conditions, and weather may all factor into the results of the tests

It should be noted that many sober people are unable to perform the field sobriety tests successfully, with reported false positive rates of 23%. It has also been reported that the Walk-and-Turn (WAT) Test is only 68% accurate, while the One-Leg Stand (OLS) Test is only 65% accurate in healthy subjects.

We will strive to file any necessary motions to dismiss or motions to attempt to exclude evidence in an effort to maximize your opportunity for a positive outcome. As your criminal defense lawyer, we will represent you at any necessary pretrial hearings, pretrial motions, and at trial.

What to Do Next

If you have been arrested for DUI:

1. Don’t speak to the police — ask to have an attorney present.
2. Don’t give a written statement — again, ask to have an attorney present.
3. Contact an attorney immediately.
4. Collect and document your own evidence.

Time is of the essence.

You have a very narrow window of time between when you are arrested and when the State Attorney’s office

makes a decision to file a criminal charge against you. Hiring an attorney immediately to negotiate on your behalf

gives you the best chance of avoiding criminal charges.

Fighting the DUI Urine Test Case

An officer will usually request a urine test when the officer suspects that the driver is under the influence of illegal street drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, or prescription medication. The urine test may also be requested if the driver’s blood alcohol level is below the .08 legal limit.

At Morris Law Firm, P.A., we work with some of the top expert witnesses who can analyze the urine test results in your case and testify that a positive test result does not indicate intoxication at the time the driving occurred.

Contact Us Today

Contact Morris Law Firm, P.A. online or call (727) 592-5885 to discuss your DUI case and the associated tests.

Why Choose Our Law Firm?

See the Difference Our Service Provides
  • FORMER STATE PROSECUTOR

    Melinda Morris is a former prosecutor and has handled thousands of criminal cases from investigation through sentencing enabling us to identify weaknesses in the State’s case against you.

  • STRATEGICALLY AGGRESSIVE

    We never settle for the easiest outcome or the typical result. We know how to negotiate with the State Attorney and we will work to get you the best possible outcome.

  • TRUSTED & EXPERIENCED

    Melinda Morris has practiced criminal law for over 20 years. Our clients trust advice that comes from experience in nearly every type of criminal case.

  • PERSONAL ATTENTION

    We will know every client’s story because we will take the time to listen and understand. You will work with your attorney one-on-one at every stage of the process.

  • PROMPT COMMUNICATION

    You will have the cell phone number of your attorney. Your attorney will directly return your call, email, or text to answer your pressing questions.

  • SAME DAY REPRESENTATION

    The government is wasting no time in trying to prove your guilt, a proactive defense is imperative. Prompt and decisive action from your defense attorney is of critical importance.

Meet the Attorneys

Melinda Morris & Seth Shapiro

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