Field Sobriety Tests
Field Sobriety Tests are tests which the investigating or arresting officer will use to see if a person is both physically and mentally capable of driving and operating a motor vehicle safely. This is commonly referred to as “divided attention”, something which a sober person is supposed to understand, comprehend, and perform without any trouble, or so the theory goes.
Law enforcement agencies are trained in different ways as to how to properly perform these tests, although there are certain tests which have been adopted nationally as the most reliable – these are referred to as “Standard Field Sobriety Tests” (SFSTs). As such, a knowledgeable and properly trained DUI attorney should be fully prepared to cross examine the arresting or investigating officer as to the proper procedures to be done with these tests, how they actually explained and demonstrated the tests, and to what extent their training and experience was applied to determine that the subject was performing well or poorly on these tests.
One of the biggest problems with these tests is that the officers give these directions very quickly, very poorly, often not following proper procedure. As a driver who has been pulled over for a traffic violation, most of us naturally become nervous and anxious. These officers often use “nervousness” as an indication that the person was under the influence – something far from our everyday reality. Additionally, the driver is usually hearing these complicated and convoluted instructions as to how to perform these tests first, for the very first time (while the officers have done this repeatedly during training so as to not make mistakes), second, while it is late at night, and third, somewhere on the dangerous side of a roadway, where anybody would have trouble following both these rapid physical and mental instructions.
Unfortunately, failing to follow directions or asking for clarification of instructions will be counted as a “clue” that the driver was therefore under the influence of alcohol, thereby justifying the arrest. A knowledgeable lawyer however should be able to point out these flaws.
“Standard Field Sobriety Tests”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) trains hundreds of law enforcement officers as to how to properly investigate a DUI case. NHTSA also conducted several independent and corroborated studies in order to determine which field sobriety tests were the most reliable and therefore to be termed “standard”. Those tests were determined to be: 1) horizontal gaze nystagmus – the officer is supposed to check your eyes using a stimulus, and will be checking for various indicators which might show that you are under the influence of alcohol; 2) The Walk and Turn – where the officer observes you walking heel to toe and should be looking for certain indicators; and 3) The One Leg Stand – another test where the officer is checking for “divided attention skills” of both following directions and physical performance.
However, poor performance on these tests, even in combination of all three, still leaves an incredibly large amount of suspicion, and therefore “reasonable doubt” as to whether a person is legally under the influence of alcohol such that they could not operate their vehicle safely.
Why Us? There are many things that need to be done to accurately, thoroughly and aggressively defend someone in a DUI case (such as checking the accuracy of the breath testing machines used, retesting the blood sample if one was provided, examining the police officer’s radio transmissions to test the accuracy of their reports, visiting the scene or checking maps of the arrest location, checking the location where the field sobriety tests (FSTs) were conducted), and our office will do all that we can while we fight for your rights!
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Do not just plead guilty to “get it over with”. You have rights – and a DUI conviction can be detrimental to your professional career and personal rights. Hire a lawyer that truly cares and can fight for you! We are here for that reason!