Los Angeles DUI Attorneys Helping Clients Fight The Results Of A Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST)
In order for an individual to be arrested for a DUI, a law enforcement officer needs to have evidence that the driver was under the influence. In order to gather this evidence, certain tests need to be administered.
Award-Winning Law Firm Representing Clients Who Have Failed Field Tests
As experienced DUI attorneys, we have helped hundreds of clients fight their cases. Here are some of the common questions we have received about Standard Field Sobriety Tests:
What Kind Of Evidence Is Used In California DUI Cases?
DUI evidence falls into five categories:
- Driving Symptoms: How the driver was driving at the time they were pulled over by law enforcement. Weaving and lane straddling can be a tell-tale sign.
- Personal Symptoms: The physical appearance of the driver at the time the driver was pulled over such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, red flushed face, smell of alcohol, and trouble standing or walking.
- Field Sobriety Tests: How the driver did on field sobriety tests.
- Incriminating Statements: The answers the driver gave the police when questioned during the traffic stop.
- Chemical Test Results. Breath tests results found by a police officer at the time of traffic stop.Occasionally blood and urine tests are conducted in only when breath is not available.
What Is A Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST)?
The Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST) is a group of three tests used by law enforcement in order to determine if a driver has been driving under the influence. The tests assess balance, coordination, and the ability of the driver to divide their attention to more than one task during the test.
According to studies done by the NHTSA in the 1970s, each of these tests measures a specific response that can show if a person has been drinking.
A breathalyzer test and the SFST serve two different purposes. The breathalyzer test help to determine if the individual is driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more. The SFST, however, determines whether or not the individual was actually affected by the alcohol.
These tests are endorsed by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), and consist of the following three tests:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
- Walk-and-turn (WAT)
- One-leg stand (OLS)
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
HGN is an involuntary jerking of the eyeball which occurs naturally as the eyes are rotated at high peripheral angles. If a person is intoxicated, the jerking of the eyes becomes much more obvious and occurs at lesser angles.
In order to determine whether or not the person is intoxicated, the officer will ask them to follow a moving stimulus slowly from side to side. An alcohol-impaired person is likely to have difficulty smoothly tracking a moving object.
The officer uses this test to determine whether or not:
- The eyes are following the object smoothly,
- The jerking of the eyes is distinct at maximum deviation, and
- The angle of the onset jerking is within 45 degrees of center
According to the NHTSA, the HGN test is 88% reliable.
The Walk-and-Turn (WAT)
WAT is a test that is meant to determine whether or not the subject can concentrate on both mental and physical tasks at the same time. This test requires the individual to walk heel to toe for nine steps in a single file, straight line, and then turn around and take nine more steps in the opposite direction. This test is also called the ninestep walk and turn, or the walk-the-line test.
The NHTSA claims that the WAT is a 79% reliable.
One-Leg Stand Test (OLS)
For this test, the individual stands with one foot about six inches off the ground and then counts aloud by thousands until they are told to put the foot down. This lasts 30 seconds and while they are counting, the officer looks for swaying, using their arms as balance, hopping to maintain balance, or putting their foot down, all of which can indicate impairment.
Though these tests have been widely used for decades, they are not perfect. One of the biggest problems is that the tests cannot be administered properly due to police misconduct. A person may “pass” or “fail” based on subjective criteria such as the officer administrating the tests, the environment, or the evaluation itself. Also, being pulled over by a police officer can cause nervousness and anxiety which may be misinterpreted as alcohol or drug use.
Physical conditions may also cause a sober person to fail the test. For example, an individual may have medical or physical limitations that make it difficult to perform the walk-and-turn test.
Even if the test, if performed correctly, is generally reliable, it must be taken into account that people make mistakes. It is possible that a police officer explains the test incorrectly to the subject or that the officer was not properly trained.
The cumulative total of the SFST tests should be able to show whether or not the individual was intoxicated at the time they were pulled over by law enforcement and the more indicators, the most solid the case against the driver. Considering that testimony is subjective, the SFST tests are considered to be much more credible even though it is not perfect by any means.
To Learn How To Fight The Results Of A Standard Field Sobriety Test, Contact A Los Angeles DUI Law Firm
It is also important to remember that, if you are pulled over and asked to take these tests, you do not legally have to do them. If you do take the tests and are arrested for a DUI, there are ways to fight the charges.
In fact, a recent study conducted in Florida, showed that these tests are falsely positive 18% of time. An experienced L.A. County DUI defense attorney from Braden & Tucci can help to fight for you by pointing out the flaws with these tests which can lead to the evidence being thrown out.
If you have been arrested for a DUI in Southern California and have concerns regarding the evidence used in your DUI case, it is advised to consult with a DUI defense attorney at once. A qualified attorney from our law firm can investigate the possibility of a violation which can reduce the charges. To learn more about your options, contact Braden & Tucci by calling (213) 935-7550.