Field Sobriety Tests
When law enforcement suspects that you have been drinking and driving, they will pull you over to further inspect if you exhibit signs of intoxication through field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests are vital in the latter part of a DUI charge: the evidence of impairment of the driver.
If you have been pulled over and asked to take a field sobriety test, the findings may have pointed to you being intoxicated. It, however, is important to note that these exams are not always accurate. Our firm can investigate to ensure they were properly carried out by an arresting officer.
The most common field sobriety tests are:
If you have been arrested, our Los Angeles DUI attorneys can use field sobriety tests as a defense for your case and help you avoid maximum penalties for your charges.
Advantages of Choosing Gold & Witham
Gold & Witham is comprised of capable professionals who look to give those accused of drinking and driving aggressive defense. During our time in legal practice, we have continued to develop not only our skill, but our understanding of the legal system. We have seen many suspects not given a fair chance and convicted of a crime they did not commit or given higher penalties than the crime deserves. Our DUI attorneys argue on behalf of those accused of drunk driving.
Accuracy of Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are not entirely accurate. In fact, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted an evaluation of the three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs), the results showed that the most effective test was only 77% accurate.
These tests are not accurate because several factors can skew the results:
- Nervousness and/or fatigue
- Physical condition or injury
- Naturally poor coordination
- Unclear instructions and directions
- Poor road or weather conditions
Refusing a Field Sobriety Test
When an officer believes you have been drinking and driving, they may ask you to submit to field sobriety tests. What law enforcement doesn't want you to know is that performing a field sobriety test is completely voluntary, meaning there are no penalties for refusing to perform a field sobriety test (not true with blood or breath tests).
Police officers may try to convince you to perform a field sobriety test by saying:
- If you're not drunk you have nothing to worry about
- If you pass the test then I won't arrest you
- If you refuse I'm going to arrest you anyways
Law enforcement officers use field sobriety tests as a reason to arrest you, so by refusing to perform a test you give them one less piece of evidence to use against you later on.
Can my refusal be used against me later on?
In some cases, the prosecution may attempt to use your refusal as evidence that you were impaired at the time, otherwise, you would have complied with the arresting officer. However, this type of argument is based on a lack of evidence, not evidence. The DUI defense attorneys at Gold & Witham have decades of experiencing challenging field sobriety tests in court!
Challenging a Field Sobriety Test in Court
Field sobriety tests are based on the observation of a law enforcement officer and not a chemical analysis, making them more prone to error than a chemical test; therefore, they can often be easily challenged. When evidence is based on observation by an individual, it becomes a gray area. At our firm, we can use the results of your field sobriety tests to prove that you were not impaired or that any impairment shown was actually the result of another factor.
If you have been administered field sobriety tests and then arrested for DUI, it is strongly advised that you contact Gold & Witham without delay so a free initial case evaluation can be done. After this evaluation, your questions will be answered and you will know how to move forward to protect yourself in the courts. Law enforcement and the courts are harsh on drunk driving and will be fighting to convict you.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
If you've been pulled over for drunk driving, the officer may ask to look into your eyes as they use a pen, flashlight, or other tool that they will hold 12 to 15 inches away and tell you to follow with your eyes. This is called the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
Also known as the HGN test, they will be looking for three clues in both eyes when they conduct this test:
- Smoothness in following the object
- Onset of nystagmus before reaching 45 degrees
- Clear nystagmus at maximum deviation
Nystagmus is involuntary eye movement acquired through various means, including intoxication. There are two types of nystagmus caused by alcohol, but officers will only test for alcohol gaze nystagmus. In this type, the eye will begin to lag when following an object and will jerk in an attempt to catch back up to it.
One-Leg Stand Test
The one-leg stand test requires a suspect to stand on one leg and balance while their foot hangs approximately six inches above the ground. The subject is then required to count out loud by thousands until the officer tells them that they can stop.
When police officers are conducting this test, they will look to see if the suspect sways, has to hop to stay balancing, uses their arms for balance, or puts their foot down before the count is finished. Those found to do two of these four signs are generally considered to be under the influence.
While it sounds simple, there are many things an officer is assessing during the walk-and-turn test. The suspect will be required to walk along a line with one foot in front of the other, heel to toe. After taking nine steps, they must turn on one foot and come back in the same manner.
The officer will be evaluating several factors, such as:
- The overall balance of the subject
- If the subject listened to instructions
- If the subject touched heel to toe
- If the subject needed their arms for balance
- If the subject started before instructions were finished
- If the subject needed to stop
- If the subject turned incorrectly
- If the subject took the wrong number of steps
Don't take chances with your future! If you submitted to field sobriety testing you will need to consult a DUI lawyer at Gold & Witham immediately. Let us help protect your future!