Florida Court Holds Consent to Field Sobriety Exercises is Not Required in DUI Cases

In Florida, most DUI arrests arise out of traffic stops. While the police are permitted to investigate DUI crimes, they can only do so if they have reasonable suspicion that such crimes are being committed. They do not need to obtain consent from a DUI suspect to conduct field sobriety exercises, though, as demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the court rejected the defendant’s argument that evidence obtained during his traffic stop should be suppressed. If you are accused of a DUI offense in Tampa, it is wise to speak to a Tampa DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that, during a traffic stop, the officers suspected the defendant of DUI and directed him to perform field sobriety exercises. The defendant complied with their request but later moved to suppress the evidence of his performance on the field sobriety exercises, arguing that his consent was lacking and, therefore, the evidence violated the Fourth Amendment.

Allegedly, during the trial court’s hearing on the defendant’s motion, the court found that although there was reasonable suspicion of DUI, the defendant did not voluntarily consent to the field sobriety exercises. Consequently, the court granted the motion to suppress the evidence. The state appealed.

Consent to Submit to Field Sobriety Exercises in Florida DUI Cases

On appeal, the central issue was whether a defendant’s consent is required when there is reasonable suspicion of DUI. The court explained that law enforcement officers can conduct investigative stops based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, as permitted by the Fourth Amendment.

In a similar case, State v. Liefert, the Second District Court held that when there is sufficient cause to believe that a defendant committed a DUI, the defendant’s consent to field sobriety exercises is irrelevant, and the officer can require their participation.

The court further noted that this conclusion is supported by the Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Taylor, where it was established that once an officer has reasonable suspicion of DUI, they are entitled to conduct a reasonable inquiry, including requesting the defendant to perform field sobriety exercises, without violating Fourth Amendment rights.

Crucially, the court explained, Taylor, does not suggest that law enforcement officers must obtain consent before directing a driver to undergo field sobriety exercises once reasonable suspicion of DUI exists. Additionally, the court clarified that neither Taylor nor the Fourth Amendment requires officers to inform motorists of their right to refuse field sobriety exercises. Therefore, the argument that the defendant had a right to refuse field sobriety exercises and that consent was required conflicts with the precedent set by Taylor.

In light of Liefert and the analysis in Taylor, the court concluded that when reasonable suspicion of DUI exists, the defendant can be required to perform field sobriety exercises, and consent is immaterial. As a result, the court reversed the suppression order by the trial court.

Speak to a Knowledgeable Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

A conviction for a DUI crime may not only impact your rights, but it can also harm your reputation and career as well. As such, if you are charged with a DUI offense, it is wise to speak to an attorney about your possible defenses. The knowledgeable Tampa lawyers of Hanlon Law understand what it takes to obtain favorable outcomes in DUI cases, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact Hanlon Law by using the form online or by calling us at 813-228-7095 to set up a conference.