Field Sobriety Tests Attorney

Challenging Your DUI Charge

At The Law Office of Barney B. Gibbs, our Anaheim DUI defense lawyer has more than 30 years of experience in criminal law. Over his career, Attorney Gibbs has represented numerous DUI cases and knows what it takes to win. He can help you analyze the circumstances of your case, including results from Field Sobriety Tests, in order to build an aggressive defense for your DUI.

What is a Field Sobriety Test?

The evidence from Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) are used by prosecutors in order to convict someone of driving under the influence, along with other evidence. Field Sobriety Tests, in one form or another, have been around for a very long time. Police officers use these tests as an aid in determining if someone is impaired for the purposes of operating a motor vehicle. Field Sobriety Tests are basically coordination tests; they do not test a person’s blood alcohol level.

Since these tests are coordination tests, they can be failed for any number of reasons. It is not uncommon for people in an alcohol–free state to fail these tests and, since these tests are given under the worst possible conditions, late at night, on the side of the road with cars flying by and a very nervous and tired defendant, results should be reviewed very carefully. Many peace officers, however, view these tests as simply a way to build up evidence against the defendant.

Further, some peace officers believe that FSTs can be used to show a person’s lack of divided attention (a person’s ability to perform more than one task at a time). FSTs, however, are not really the best measure of divided attention- driving is. When a person drives a motor vehicle, he/she must do many things at one time. He/she has to stay in the lane, maintain speed, etc. Lack of divided attention can show mental as well as physical impairment.

When reviewing performance on FSTs, an attorney must be intimately familiar with each of the individual tests used and what defines a failure of said tests. Listed below are the most widely-used standardized Field Sobriety Tests, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
The "nystagmus" refers to the gaze of the eye. There is a normal amount of shaking that an eye will exhibit when it is fixated on an object or a moving object. In order to determine intoxication, an officer will typically have the subject track an object (usually a pen) with their eyes. If the subject cannot track the object with their gaze, but instead exhibit shaky eye motions, then the law enforcement official will take this into consideration when choosing whether or not to arrest the individual for driving under the influence.

One Leg Stand
This test is supposedly easy to perform when not under the influence of alcohol. As it sounds, this test requires the subject to stand on one leg, with the other foot approximately six inches off of the ground. The standard length of time a law enforcement official will ask the subject to stand on one leg is for a period of 30 seconds. If the subject wobbles excessively, puts their foot down before the time is up or waves their arms to balance, this indicates intoxication to the law enforcement official.

Walk and Turn
According to the NHTSA, the subject is required to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, and then turn around and come back in the same manner. If the subject cannot take those nine steps in a straight line, if they cannot maintain their balance, if they fail to listen to instructions, take an incorrect number of steps, etc. then the law enforcement official will likely conclude that the subject is intoxicated.

Defenses Against DUI Evidence

The Field Sobriety Tests are simply indicators to show whether or not the law enforcement official should make a DUI arrest. Since these tests are not the same as the breath/blood/chemical tests, a refusal will not lead to an automatic license suspension. What will likely happen is that you will be arrested and taken in for a chemical test. The major problem with Field Sobriety Tests is that they are highly subjective and can be affected by a number of different variables.

Some of those variables can include: the subject's nervousness, exhaustion, weather conditions, road conditions, the subject's clothing (i.e. wearing high heels might affect the walk and turn test) and other factors. An officer is therefore determining intoxication levels based upon their observations, rather than on concrete evidence. While the Field Sobriety Test evidence will likely not be the only piece of evidence used to make a DUI conviction, our firm can help combat it. For aggressive defense in Orange County, contact The Law Office of Barney B. Gibbs today!