DUI Field Sobriety Tests
DUI Field Sobriety Tests and Objective Symptoms of Intoxication
Alcohol, drugs, or prescription drugs have an effect on a person’s central nervous system, impacting one’s ability to perform divided-attention tasks – in other words, because of alcohol or drugs, the person cannot multi-task well on the road and is not safe when driving, turning, stopping, or deciding how to negotiate a turn.
Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are a series of tests that measure a person’s agility, attention, coordination, and balance. The objective of administering these tests is to determine whether the driver is safe or not on the road, due to the use of alcohol or drugs. Thus during field sobriety tests, the officer will be monitor the subject’s balance, coordination, and ability to follow directions. Most people do not realize that you are not required under California law to perform such testing.
You are required, however, to submit to a chemical test, either alcohol or blood after an arrest. Failing to perform the chemical test is considered a Refusal and is typically more severely punished in court and by the DMV.
Most individuals choose to perform FSTs because they do not know they have the right to refuse. The person is typically asked to complete certain tasks such as touching their finger to their nose, walking and turning, and following a pen from side-to-side with their eyes. The officer will observe the person as they perform the field sobriety tests and subjectively take note of the person’s ability perform each test. The officer will note if the person is swaying, needs help standing, or is generally too slow in following his or her instructions.
It is important to note that even a sober person could have difficulty passing the field sobriety tests. A person could fail the tests for many reasons, including poor instructions, fatigue, weather conditions, and nervousness. Each tests’ degree of difficulty could also impact a person’s ability to pass or fail. Scientific studies have shown that most field sobriety tests are unreliable. If the DUI goes to trial, our law firm secures the attendance of a DUI Expert witness who would explain to the jury this lack of reliability.
Field Sobriety Tests are really only a part of a DUI investigation. At the time of the traffic stop, the police officer who suspects a DUI will typically ask the person to step out of the car and follow his or her instructions on how to perform the tests. The officer is looking at the person’s overall appearance, his or her ability to communicate, and slurred speech. The officer may smell alcohol on the subject’s breath or person, and will usually examine the individual’s eyes with a flashlight. Frequently the DUI investigator will write in his police report that he or she observed the suspect had “glassy and watery” eyes. According to blood alcohol science, this is an objective physical symptom of alcohol intoxication.
Here are some examples of frequently-administered Field Sobriety Tests in California:
• Wall and Turn Test: The officer asks the person to take nine heel-to-toe steps, stop, turn, and take nine more heel-to-toe steps. While the person performs the test, the officer will look to see if he or she can follow instructions, maintain balance, and stay on a designated line.
• One Leg Stand Test: During the one leg test, the person will be asked to stand with their heels together and their arms at their side. The officer will then ask the person to raise one leg six inches off of the ground and to count out loud until told to stop. The officer will watch to see if the person loses balance, sways, or puts their foot down.
• Nystagmus Test (Horizontal and Vertical: During the Nystagmus exam, also known as the horizontal or vertical gaze test, the officer will hold an object, such as a pen, about 12 to 15 inches from the person’s face. The officer will then move the object from side-to-side while watching the person’s eyes for Horizontal Gaze. When the officer moves the object up and down, he is watching for Vertical Gaze Nystagmus. If the person’s eyes involuntarily jerk or tremble, Nystagmus is present and can be interpreted as a sign that the person has consumed alcohol. However, the present of certain medical conditions also causes Nystagmus and thus this test is not conclusive of a person’s intoxication.
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If you have been arrested for DUI in Los Angeles or the San Fernando Valley, obtaining a qualified attorney is the most important decision you can make.
Contact the law firm of Eisner & Gorin, LLP, right now to have immediate counsel begin on constructing the most appropriate defense strategy.
The top-rated DUI attorneys at Eisner & Gorin, LLP, have litigated thousands of drunk-driving cases, and helped clients throughout Los Angeles County. As well-qualified DUI defense lawyers, our law partners are dedicated to clients’ needs and to producing outstanding results. With our DUI defense law firm on your side, your chances of successfully fighting your charges and avoiding a conviction are greatly increased. We will advise you throughout the DUI process and serve as your advocate in court and at your DMV hearing. Our DUI attorneys will protect your rights, inform you of your legal options, investigate the conditions of your arrest, and question law enforcement and witnesses.
Remember, you only have 10 days to prevent your license from being suspended!