What Happens Once Someone Is Pulled Over On Suspicion Of DUI In Florida?
In most cases, the initial stop that leads to a DUI arrest is based on a traffic infraction, such as crossing the lane line, driving too slowly, or failing to stop at a stop sign. If the officer smells alcohol during the stop, then they will likely make their decision to arrest based on that observation and nothing more. However, most officers will make inquiries, such as by asking the driver, “How much alcohol have you had tonight?” They phrase the question this way because they assume that the driver has been drinking; this however, is not always a correct assumption. For example, a person who smells of alcohol could have only had a non-alcoholic beverage, since the smell associated with alcohol is not ethanol itself, but the “congeners” which are the byproducts of the fermentation process. For this reason, the odor of alcohol does not always indicate the consumption of an alcoholic beverage.
The officer will likely ask the suspect to step out of the car so they can observe how well they are able to balance and how coordinated they seem to be. If the officer sees that the person has to hold the side of the car to steady themselves as they stand up, then the officer might consider that to be a sign of intoxication. The truth is that regardless of whether someone is intoxicated, it's nearly impossible to get out of a low car without using it to stand up. It should also be known that if an officer asks someone to step out of their car and take field sobriety tests, then they've already decided to make an arrest.
Field sobriety tests are grossly biased in favor of arrest, and virtually everyone who has any amount of alcohol in their system whatsoever will be arrested. In fact, I probably receive at least 10 cases a year involving a client who failed the field sobriety tests but was below the legal level for alcohol. There are three standardized field sobriety tests. These are the tests which the U.S. Department of Transportation considers “validated.” They are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, the Walk-And-Turn test, and the One-Leg-Stand test. The HGN test is the only one that is even remotely scientific, and it is basically an attempt to observe whether a person's eyeballs jerk while following an object in front of them. If so, then it is usually taken as a sign of intoxication by alcohol. The Walk-And-Turn and One-Leg-Stand test are designed to see how well a person can multitask and follow complicated instructions while standing in an unnatural position and trying to balance heel to toe. The truth of the matter is that almost everyone fails those tests, and they are primarily used by police officers who want to confirm their initial reason for asking the person to step out of their vehicle.