At the Law Offices of Robert C. Smith, almost all of our clients are charged with DUI as a result of field sobriety tests (FSTs) administered by the arresting officer. However, it is important to note that field sobriety tests are subjective exercises that try to determine a person’s balance, coordination, and divided attention. They are not entirely accurate and they do not determine if a person is impaired or not. Serving San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, and Los Angeles Counties, our law firm can help if you, a friend, or a loved one has been arrested for driving under the influence based in part on the results of a field sobriety test. The following questions are queries frequently asked of us by our clients, so we have provided them below for your convenience. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact the Law Office of Robert C. Smith today at 909-563-8644.
- Do I have to submit to a field sobriety test?
- What are the most common field sobriety tests?
- Can field sobriety tests be challenged?
Do I have to submit to a field sobriety test?
No. Field sobriety tests are voluntary, and the police officer who pulls you over generally does not tell you this. However, if a police officer feels that you are impaired and you decline the field sobriety test, he or she may arrest you and require you to submit to a chemical test under the California Implied Consent Law. Though after arrest you are required by law to submit to chemical testing if asked by a police officer, you should know that the results of such tests can be challenged in court by our law firm.
What are the most common field sobriety tests?
There are a variety of exercises administered by police officers during field sobriety tests. Three of these exercises have been deemed standard by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and are considered to be the “Standardized Field Sobriety Tests” (SFSTs). However, field sobriety tests are still subjective in nature, and can be challenged in court. The standardized field sobriety tests consist of the following:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) – The HGN test is used to measure the involuntary jerking of the eyes as they look left and right towards the peripherals. When an individual is impaired, the tendency for eye jerking may become more pronounced and occurs at a less extreme angle. To administer this test, the police officer will hold an object in front of the driver’s eyes, and move the object side to side. The individual being tested is asked to follow the object with his or her eyes without turning their head. However, there are several factors that can cause horizontal gaze nystagmus, including seizure medication, and the use of other prescribed medication. Even the police officer’s cruiser strobe lights can give the appearance of HGN.
- Walk-and-Turn Test – This test helps determine a person’s coordination, balance, and motor skills. The walk-and-turn test and the one-leg stand test (below) are known as “divided attention” tests because the tests task the individual with performing more than one action at the same time. During the walk-and-turn test, the individual is asked to walk in a straight line, heel-to-heel, for nine steps. At the end of this line, the person must pivot on one foot and return in the opposite direction in the same manner. If the individual fails to perform the test to the officer’s satisfaction, then he or she may ultimately be arrested for DUI.
- One-Leg Stand Test – In the one-leg stand test, the officer has the individual stand on one leg for 30 seconds and count upwards in one-thousands. If the individual sways, uses his or her arms for balance, hops on one foot, or puts both feet on the ground, the officer may ultimately make an arrest for DUI as well. However, the NHTSA estimates that only 65 percent of the individuals who fail this test are intoxicated.
In addition to the Standard Field Sobriety Test, he or she may be asked to perform one or more of the following:
- Rhomberg Test – The Rhomberg test tasks the individual with standing feet together, arms down at the sides, tilting the head back with eyes closed, and estimating the passage of 30 seconds. If the individual is unable to maintain balance, grossly underestimates or overestimates the passage of 30 seconds, fails to properly follow instructions, or experiences body tremors, it may also lead to an arrest.
Finger-to-Nose Test – Standing in a manner nearly identical to that in the Rhomberg test, with the feet together, the eyes closed, and the head slightly tilted back, the individual is asked to touch the tip of the nose with the tip of the index finger, alternating between the left and right hand. The officer will instruct the individual with which hand to perform the test, and in total, will have the individual perform the test three times with the left hand and three times with the right hand. If the individual displays an inability to perform the test to the officer’s satisfaction, it may be used in part for a basis of an arrest.
- Finger Count Test – Holding the palm out in front of the body, facing upwards, the individual is tasked with touching the thumb with the index finger, the middle finger, the ring finger, and the pinky finger in succession, as they count aloud from one to four. They are then asked to continue the task in reverse and so forth until three complete cycles have been performed. If the individual is unable to perform the task as it was instructed, there may also be cause for an arrest.
If you have been arrested for DUI contact our law office to schedule a free consultation with our knowledgeable and experienced staff, call 909-563-8644.
Can field sobriety tests be challenged?
Yes. Field sobriety tests are subjective exercises that are designed to test an individual’s divided attention and motor skill abilities. We understand the difficulties people have doing these tests who have never done them before or are doing them under an extremely stressful situation. Our DUI defense lawyers have an exhaustive understanding of DUI law and extensive experience fighting DUI charges. If you, a friend, relative or a loved one has been arrested on suspicion of DUI based on the results of a field sobriety test, we have the resources and the knowledge needed to demonstrate the inherent shortcomings of such tests.