Field Sobriety Tests

After a person is stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence, law enforcement may ask him or her to perform a series of roadside field sobriety tests (FSTs) in order to determine the individual’s level of impairment. Field sobriety tests are used by California law enforcement agencies as a preliminary judge of intoxication because it is believed that substance usage affects an individual’s ability to perform the dexterity tests properly.

While there are a number of field sobriety tests that an individual suspected of driving under the influence may be asked to perform, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has decided upon three standardized tests that should be utilized when an individual is stopped under suspicion of driving under the influence:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
  • The Walk and Turn
  • The One Leg Stand

As each of these tests are performed, California law enforcement officers, including the California Highway Patrol, will watch for certain signs of intoxication, including lack of coordination, lack of balance, inability to follow instructions, or lack of eye focus. If any of these signs are present during an individual’s performance of the roadside field sobriety tests (FSTs), law enforcement will assume that the person is under the influence.

Often times, field sobriety tests (FSTs) are a highly inaccurate measure of an individual’s level of intoxication. In a number of instances, an individual may fail the field sobriety tests administered by law enforcement even if he or she is completely sober. This may occur for a variety of reasons including weather conditions not conducive to outdoor testing, poor lighting, incomplete explanation of the administered test, slippery roads, an individual’s poor coordination, or other physical impairments which may prevent an individual from performing the roadside tests to the best of his or her ability. As a result of these inconsistencies, the results of field sobriety tests (FSTs) should always be challenged in court. Our California DUI defense lawyers have been trying DUI cases for over a decade, and are prepared to challenge the results of your field sobriety tests (FSTs).

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