FAQ: Field Sobriety Tests

At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, we frequently encounter clients who were charged with DUI as a result of field sobriety tests (FST) administered by the arresting officer. Although police use FSTs to evaluate a person’s balance, coordination, and divided attention to justify DUI charges, these tests are not necessarily accurate. Below, we answer common questions our attorneys are frequently asked about field sobriety tests and DUI arrests.

Question #1: Can field sobriety test results be used in a DUI case?

A: Theresults of field sobriety tests (FSTs) are submitted to the prosecutor, court, and jury so all parties in the case are aware of the individual’s level of intoxication. FST results can also be introduced as evidence at hearings and trials. Judges can consider FST results when deciding legal issues in a case and the jury can consider the results when deciding whether the defendant is guilty.

Question #2: Do I have to submit to a field sobriety test?

A: Field sobriety tests are voluntary, so you do not have to submit to this particular request from an officer. However, if you decline the FST and the officer suspects you are impaired, they can arrest you and require a chemical test under the California Implied Consent Law. Although you must submit to chemical testing if you are arrested, our attorneys can help you challenge the results or testing procedures in court.

Question #3: Are there different types of field sobriety tests?

A: Police generally use three standardized FSTs: the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), walk and turn (W&T), and the one-leg stand (OLS) tests. Only these three tests have been scientifically validated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to be reliable indicators of intoxication.

Question #4: What is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test?

A: The HGN test measures the involuntary jerking of a person’s eyes as they look left and right towards the peripherals. If the person is impaired, the eye jerking is more pronounced and occurs at a less extreme angle. To administer an HGN test, police will hold and move an object side to side in front of the suspect’s eyes. Police will also ask the suspect to follow the object with their eyes without turning their head. The results of the HGN test can be inaccurate if the test subject is taking seizure medication or other prescription drugs.

Question #5: What is the walk and turn test?

A: The W&T is used to evaluate a person’s coordination, balance, and motor skills. The walk-and-turn is considered a “divided attention” tests because it requires the individual to perform simultaneous actions. During the walk-and-turn test, the suspect must walk in a straight line, heel-to-heel, for nine steps. At the end of this line, they must pivot on one foot and return in the opposite direction in the same manner. If they fail to perform the test to the officer’s satisfaction, they can be arrested for DUI.

Question #6: What is the one-leg stand test?

A: The OLS test requires the individual to stand on one leg for 30 seconds and count upwards. If the individual sways, relies on their arms for balance, hops on one foot, or puts both feet on the ground, then they fail and the officer can arrest them for DUI. According to the NHTSA, roughly 65% of the individuals who fail the OLS test are intoxicated.

Consult with Our Esteemed DUI Attorneys Today

If you have been accused of a DUI, it's important to know that you don’t have to accept a conviction. Our legal team at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP has the legal resources and knowledge of the law that you need on your side to challenge and defeat DUI charges in court. Our attorneys are here to help you build a strong defense for your charges, and we will work diligently to protect your driver's license.

Give us a call today at (800) 462-7160 or contact us online to set up a free case review.