Field Sobriety Testing in DUI Cases

Many people arrested for DUI in Los Angeles and Orange County feel aggrieved that they should have been allowed to go home because they "passed" the field sobriety tests. The legal issue at hand is whether the police had sufficient evidence of potential impairment to justify an arrest for DUI for the purposes of taking a blood or breath test. The police will take into account a number of factors in determining whether to arrest a suspect for DUI including the suspects driving pattern, any objective symptoms of impairment such as odor of alcohol and slurred speech, and also the suspects performance of field sobriety tests. If the officer has reasonable suspicion that the suspect may be impaired to drive through alcohol or drugs, the arrest is lawful. The test of reasonableness is an objective one, but the courts and DMV give a large degree of lattitude to the police in determining who they should arrest in the interests of public safety.

There is in fact, no objective test for passing or failing field sobriety tests in DUI cases. The police will look at the overall performance and decide whether the suspect performed the tests as demonstrated. A number of criteria will be noted such as ability to follow directions, starting before instructed to do so, balance and coordination, ability to count and estimate time. Many defendants become frustrated when they see the police report of their performance as the report generally details all the things that the defendant did wrong as opposed to the instructions successfully followed.

In defending DUI cases, it is important to point to all the positives in the case including all of the small and detailed things a defendant did successfully during field sobriety testing. All evidence consistent with a lack of mental or physical impairment should be highlighted. There will always be things a defendant did wrong as it is practically impossible to perform field sobriety tests perfectly, but the emphasis should be on all the evidence consistent with sobriety.

Any poor performance of field sobriety tests may also be as a result of external factors such as the officer failing to clearly explain the tests, a sloping or uneven surface, bad lighting, medical issues, tiredness or nervousness etc.

If you have been arrested for DUI and you have questions concerning field sobriety tests, please call Los Angeles DUI Attorneys Gold and Witham for a free consultation.

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