Criminal Defense in Orange County

Field Sobriety Tests: Questioning in Divided-Attention Tests

Prosecutors and law enforcement have relied upon the results of scientific DUI research to conclude that a divided-attention test is a reliable manner in which to measure one's driving impairment. Human beings, as the interpretation of the results suggest, are faced with many complex tasks on a daily basis. Driving a motor vehicle is one such complex task. Simply put, if you "fail" a divided-attention test, as measured by the field officer, you therefore must not have had the ability to operate a motor vehicle at the time you were pulled over. Several issues are relevant in divided-attention tests, as an Orange County DUI defense lawyer can explain. Among those are:

1. An interrogation precedes almost all divided-attention tests.

Once you are pulled over, the officer will speak with you. This conversation is in reality the first "test" you are given. If the officer observes glassy eyes, slurred speech or what is considered "objective signs" of impairment, you may be then asked to perform a divided-attention test.

2. What is the basis for a divided-attention test?

Essentially, driving is considered a complex task, which requires one to divide his or her attention between two or more tasks. The effect of alcohol, or perhaps prescription medication or other drugs, may slow information processing in the brain. Ultimately, the individual may only be able to perform one task adequately, but not the other or others required to "pass" the divided-attention test, again as measured by law enforcement.

3. What are the types of divided-attention tests?

There are a number of field sobriety tests law enforcement may ask you to perform, but the two most common that require two tasks are:

  1. The one-leg stand test, which requires standing on one foot while counting aloud in time periods of one second; and
  2. The walk-and-turn test, which requires a difficult physical task and unclear instructions.

Other tactics employed by law enforcement include either asking two questions at once (e.g. "Give me your drivers' license" and "Where is your registration?") or trying to trick or confuse you in questioning. An experienced criminal defense attorney can best explain these issues in greater detail and deliver the most positive result in your case. Contact The Law Office of Barney B. Gibbs today.