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Field Sobriety Exercises

Can a law enforcement officer compel a person to perform Field Sobriety Exercises (FSEs)?  In Florida, the courts have found that if an officer has reasonable suspicion for a DUI, then the suspect can be required to submit to FSEs. See, e.g. State v. Canuet, 22 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 900a (Fla. 17th Cir. Ct. March 2, 2015).

Others courts have found that if the officer has reasonable suspicion of DUI, but not probable cause for arrest, then the Defendant cannot be compelled to submit to FSEs. For these reasons, the results of the suspect’s performance on field sobriety exercises are only admissible at trial if the state proves the suspect’s voluntary consent to perform such exercises.

If the officer has probable cause to arrest the suspect for DUI (before the suspect is requested or instructed to submit to FSEs), then the suspect can be compelled to perform such exercises. Under these circumstances, the suspect’s consent is immaterial. In those cases, the word “compel” simply means that if the suspect refuses to participate in field testing, then the refusal is admissible at trial.

Consent is immaterial in the context of FSEs if the officer had “sufficient cause” to believe that the defendant had committed a crime in the operation of a motor vehicle. The term “sufficient cause” typically means “probable cause for arrest.”

If the Court finds that the DUI enforcement officer did not have probable cause to arrest the suspect for DUI at the time he requested the suspect to submit to FSEs. then in order for the results of the suspect’s performance on the FSEs to be admissible at trial, the State has the burden of demonstrating that the suspect freely and voluntarily submitted to FSEs.

The court will consider whether the suspect was told that he or she did not have to submit. If the Court concludes that the suspect’s submission to field sobriety exercises was not the product of free and voluntary choice, but rather, compliance with law enforcement directives, then the results of field sobriety exercises must be excluded.

Additionally, if the court determines that the field sobriety exercises were unlawfully obtained and that without them, the officer did not have probable cause to arrest the suspect for DUI, then the court would also conclude that any evidence following the suspect’s arrest must be suppressed.

Attorney on Field Sobriety Exercises in Tampa, FL

A criminal defense attorney can file and litigate a “Motion to Suppress” the results of the field sobriety exercises so that it is excluded from trial along with any evidence obtained after the arrest.

The DUI defense attorneys at Sammis Law Firm are focused on DUI defense. Whether your case involves a breath test, blood test, or urine test we can help. We also represent clients accused of refusing to submit to testing.

Call 813-250-0500 to discuss your best defense.

This article was last updated on Friday, December 9, 2022.