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Field Sobriety Tests

DUI Field Sobriety Tests in California

When you have been arrested for DUI, you may have been given a field sobriety test by the law enforcement officer on the scene.

The results of those tests can vary significantly. Many people don't realize that this is a vital part of our investigation and it should not be left to guesswork. It is vital that you have any field sobriety tests assessed by an experienced DUI lawyer.

Although there are a number of various tests that are administered as field sobriety tests there are only three that are considered “standard”:

The horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) - Nystagmus is a term from the medical field that indicates an involuntary jerking movement of the eyes.

The officer will have you follow a moving object such as a finger or a pen to see if your eyes follow smoothly or if there is an increase in movement of the eyeballs due to an influence of drugs or alcohol.

Nystagmus is a natural process even when sober – but eye movements are often exaggerated when under the influence.  It should be noted there are many other factors that could cause nystagmus, such as the consuming caffeine or even fatigue.

Walk-and-turn -The officer will have you take 9 steps heel-to-toe, then turn around walk back in the same fashion. The officer will look for a lack of balance during the procedure. The goal is to test whether you can divide your attention between listening to instructions and performing the test. 

Police will judge your performance on the ability to follow instructions and if you are able to keep your balance during instructions.

One-legged stand – The officer will have you hold one foot off the ground and hold it to see if you can maintain balance smoothly.

Police will probably ask you to count out loud to see how well you gauge time. They are looking for signs of impairment like swaying, using arms to keep balance, or putting you food on the ground.

Even those these tests are considered “standard” they are flawed in that they are subjective. A police officer's opinion can be swayed, in addition to the possibility the tests were not conducted exactly per protocol.

Additionally, you should know that these tests are not mandatory and you do not have to submit to them per California law. It's possible to pass DUI field sobriety tests, but it will depend on many factors.

Failing to Complete Field Sobriety Tests

Police will use a failing to successfully complete these flied sobriety tests as signs of alcohol or drug consumption.

Clearly, all these tests are subjective in the eyes of the police officer. Their arrest report will be written in a manner to make it sound like you were driving under the influence. Police are typically looking for a reason to fail your performance on the FST's.

There are events during performing field sobriety teats that will impact your ability to complete them.

For example, they are often performed at night when the weather may be cold and you could be tired. Also, the tests are performed on uneven ground or on lose rocks.  Also, you may be wearing shoes that make it difficult to perform the tests.

Not all of these field sobriety tests are 100% accurate. The conditions under which they were administered could be challenged in court.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer could attack the method in which the tests were administered. In many DUI cases, police will testify the driver failed some of the tests, but not all of them.

Next Steps in Your Defense

Even if you have submitted to a field sobriety test, this doesn't necessarily mean the results of the test can be used against you in court.

Contact us at Cron, Israels & Stark and have an experienced DUI lawyer review the facts of your case, including any administered field sobriety tests.

These tests can be challenged as well as the fact that the officer must have had “reasonable suspicion” as to why they pulled you over in the first place.

We have extensive experience and know how to effectively defend you. If you have been arrested for drunk driving based on a field sobriety test, give us a call to review the details. 

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