Challenging your California DUI: Field Sobriety Test

Challenging your California DUI: Field Sobriety Test

Challenging your California DUI: Field Sobriety Test

If you or someone you know has recently been charged and/or arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in or around Visalia, California, there are various circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest your attorney might choose to challenge depending upon your best interest. After investigating every aspect of your arrest, your California DUI attorney might choose to challenge probable cause, blood alcohol content (BAC) results or perhaps even any of your rights which may have been violated during your arrest and detainment. However, in this post we are going to discuss one of the more common California DUI challenges: Field Sobriety Test (FST)

Challenging the Administering of FSTs

Although your attorney should thoroughly examine every detail of the traffic stop, roadside test, charging documents and your arrest, the attorney will often want to pay close attention to the arresting officer’s administration of the Field Sobriety Test.

Due to law enforcement officers being in an authoritative role while conducting a traffic stop, many understandably assume the officer is always in the right and correct in their conduct and procedures. Because of this, it is relatively easy for someone who may already be more preoccupied with their potentially being arrested for DUI to be attentive to whether or not the police officer is administering their Field Sobriety Test appropriately and in accordance with the guidelines and procedures setup by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

It is for this reason your California DUI attorney should investigate to ensure the police officer’s administering of any roadside sobriety test was in accordance to the rules and regulations set forth by the NHTSA as well as never once placed you (DUI suspect) at any disadvantage which may have led to your being arrested for DUI.

In 1977, as a result of their having funded a study conducted the Southern California Research Institute as being the only roadside sobriety test that theoretically were objective, accurate to a degree and reliable enough evidence to initiate an arrest for DUI, the NHTSA adopted three testing methods and deemed them as Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST).

  • One-Leg Stand Test (DUI suspect stands on one foot with arms held out to their side)
  • Walk and Turn (DUI suspect walks heel to toe then back)
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (Officer asks DUI suspect to follow and object with their eyes)

All of these three sobriety test have strict rules and regulations for administrating, as well as the scoring process of the tests themselves which must be followed to the exact letter for any of the test to be considered sufficient enough evidence to arrest an individual for DUI.

Challenging the Scoring and Results of FSTs

Yet even if every detail of the test was administered correctly and the police officer scored the test as objectively as possible, an extremely skilled DUI attorney experienced in contesting Field Sobriety Test can often challenge the accuracy and validity of the test results themselves. Your California DUI attorney can argue numerous challenges before the court regarding your ability to perform a sobriety test as requested by the arresting officer.

These challenges might include their client having been diagnosed with astigmatism or other medical related eye defect which would almost certainly alter the police officer’s scoring of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) eye test. Perhaps their client suffers from another medical condition such as an old knee injury, severe arthritis or even gout which would have prevented their being able to place their body weight entirely upon one leg and therefore unable to perform the “One Leg Stand” roadside sobriety test.

Because even the NHTSA funded research into the accuracy of these Standardized Field Sobriety Tests are only accurate in determining the level of intoxication 87% of the time, it can often be argued that even someone who has not taken a single drink of alcohol can easily score low enough on any of these test to have been arrested and charged with DUI.

Just because a driver fails a sobriety test of any kind does not necessarily mean the evidence against them is insurmountable in any way. Often it is far better to remain silent, offer no comments or incriminating statements such as how many drinks you have had and submit to whatever test the police officer requests. When it comes to DUI cases, with the exception of your own words, having what seems to be insurmountable evidence against you is quite often much better in your best interest rather than having had you refused to submit to any testing at all.

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