What Are the Different Types of Field Sobriety Tests in FL?
In our last blog article, we discussed some of the basics of what happens in a Driving Under the Influence investigation in Florida. We focused on Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus—or the “Eye
Exercise”—part of the Standardized Field Sobriety Exercises. We will not focus on the next “SFSE” known as “Walk and Turn.” A Florida DUI officer or any other police officer will almost always conduct the various SFSEs in the same order:
- HGN (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus)
- Walk and Turn
- One Leg Stand
Some exercises may be skipped if the officer believes the person is too impaired, injured, or just physically unable to perform the exercise. Ultimately, the officer does not want to see you get injured. Assuming, then, that you have already completed the Eye Exercise, he would move on with you to Walk and Turn. Unlike HGN, there are no special scientific observations the police officer would be making with Walk and Turn. Therefore, everything the officer observes will be explained to the jury by the officer and by the evidence video should there be one. Walk and Turn is fundamentally an exercise designed to measure your ability to multitask.
There are two stages to Walk and Turn: Instructional and Walking.
In the instructional stage, the officer will ask you to first hold one end of a roll of tape. He will ask you to stand still holding the tape while he walks away from you a certain distance. He will then ask you to help him place the tape on the ground. This is the first part of the exercise, and he will be watching to see how well you are able to place the tape on the ground.
After the tape is on the ground, the police officer will ask you to stand at your end of the tape with both feet lengthwise on the tape, right foot in front of your left foot. The officer will ask you to place your hands at your sides. He will ask you to remain in the position while explains the exercise. This is an important part of the exercise—he will be watching you for any movement. If you step out of the position, raise your hands for balance, or sway, he will note that as a Clue of Impairment.
While you are in that awkward position, the police officer will explain that, when he tells you to, you will walk heel to toe nine total steps along the tape you helped him place on the ground. He will demonstrate. Once you get to the last step, you will take a series of small steps to your left leaving your left foot on the line until you are facing the opposite direction. Again, the police officer will demonstrate this for you. You will then take another series of nine heel to toe steps to the end. The entire time you are doing this, your arms need to remain at your side. It is important to note that should your turn be to the right, it means you have either started from the wrong position or have taken the wrong number of steps. Either of those would result in another Clue of Impairment. Lastly, you would need to make sure to wait for the police officer to tell you to begin. A common mistake is when people start to walk before being told to—this is also another Clue of Impairment. All of this Instructional Stage is designed to see if you can do two things at once: remain in the position and listen to the police officer’s instructions.
Now it’s time to walk. You will take nine heel-to-toe steps. What does heel to toe mean? It means you take your left foot and place it in front of your right foot with the heel of your left foot touching the toe of your right foot. Be careful not to kick your toe as you do this—while hitting heel to toe is not a Clue of Impairment, it is considered an Indicator of Impairment. That just means police officers believe it shows you are impaired and trying to trick him into thinking you are not. That may not seem like a big deal, but the prosecutor will try to convince six jurors of the same thing should your case go to trial one day.
The Five Clues of Impairment
The five Clues of Impairment the police officer will be looking for while you walk through those first nine steps are the following:
- Stops Walking
- Misses Heel to Toe
- Steps Off the Line
- Uses Arms for Balance
- The Number of Steps Actually Taken
So as you continue walking heel to toe along the line of tape without stopping, not only do you need to make sure you are not kicking your toes, you need to make sure they still touch each time. Your feet have to remain in a line on the tape. Your arms and hands need to remain at your side just like in the Instructional Stage. You are being asked to perform multiple tasks at once and having to remember each task at the same time. Again, the goal here is to make sure you are able to multitask.
Once you get to the ninth and final step, your left foot should be in front. Now you will make a series of small steps with your right foot towards the left while your left foot pivots with each step until you are facing the opposite direction. Your left foot should still be on the line. When you place your right foot in front of your left foot—heel to toe—that is the first of your next nine steps. The turn should be fluid as the police officer showed you in the Instructional Stage. If you do it any other way, he is going to count that as one of the eight total possible Clues of Impairment.
For the next nine steps, the police officer is going to be looking for the same Clues of Impairment that he did for the first nine steps. Remember it is heel to toe, feet on the line of tape, arms and hands at your side, do not stop until you are finished. Ultimately the police officer is looking at everything you do. He is going to note any confusion or questions you may ask.
Contact our law firm today if you or a loved one has been arrested for a DUI. Our experienced attorneys have over 23 years of combined experience handling criminal cases. Let us start helping you today! We can be reached at 904-356-8618 or through the “contact” section on our website.