Field sobriety tests are exercises administered by law enforcement officers who believe an individual has been operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Poor performance on one or more of these tests is often cited as probable cause for making an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI). Unlike breathalyzer or blood testing, field sobriety tests may be legally refused, and it is generally advisable to refuse to participate in any tests suggested by a law enforcement officer.
There are three standardized tests widely used in California and the rest of the United States. The most common test is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. In this test, the law enforcement officer presents a visual stimulus (often a finger) for the suspect to focus on and moves it horizontally or vertically. Doing so allows the officer to look for signs of intoxication including lack of smooth eye tracking and involuntary jerking of the eyes. The Walk and Turn test (WAT) is a “divided attention” test where the suspect is asked to walk heel-to-toe along a line for a specific number of steps, often requiring a turn or pivot in the middle of the series of steps. This test primarily tests balance and the suspect’s ability to remember and follow instructions. The third standardized test is known as the One Leg Stand (OLS). Requiring the suspect to balance on one leg for 30 seconds, this test is very similar to the Walk and Turn test in both its purpose and signs of intoxication. In these tests, officers are looking for swaying, usage of arms to balance, and inability to follow instructions.
POOR PERFORMANCE IN A FIELD SOBRIETY TEST? DUI CHARGES?
Multiple discrepancies during a field sobriety test often lead law enforcement officers to believe that the suspect has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .1% or higher. If testing indicates a blood alcohol content above the legal limit (.08% or higher for regular vehicles, .04% or higher for commercial vehicles, .01% or higher for drivers under 21), the driver will likely be charged with DUI. If found guilty, the punishment depends on both the age of the driver and the severity of the DUI charge.
Drivers 21 years or older charged with misdemeanor DUI face a four month suspension of their license for a first offense. Subsequent offenses in the following ten years result in a one year suspension. For drivers under 21, the suspension is always for one year.
DEMAND AN ATTORNEY EXPERIENCED WITH FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS
Regardless of the nature of your DUI charge, the attorneys at Okabe & Haushalter believe that everyone deserves a fair trial. Field sobriety tests are notoriously inaccurate as they are designed for failure, and the tasks can be difficult even for sober people to successfully complete flawlessly. Don’t hesitate and lose your license. Not being able to freely drive can severely impact your ability to perform daily activities or even get to work. If you have experienced poor performance during a field sobriety test and are in danger of having your driver’s license suspended or revoked, contact Okabe & Haushalter for a free consultation today. We always fight for the best possible outcome for our clients.