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Is it Mandatory that I complete Field Sobriety Tests During a San Diego DUI Arrest?

  • September 1, 2017

    Contrary to what many people believe, when you are pulled over by a cop while driving and the officer suspects you might be driving while intoxicated, you are not required to submit to a field sobriety test. However, while the field sobriety tests done prior to being arrested are not required by the law, if you get arrested you will have to submit to a blood test or chemical breath test. The field sobriety tests are created to make you fail. For most people, the tests cannot even be competently completed by sober individuals.

    The outcome of a field sobriety test is determined by more than just how much you have had to drink. Things like age, weight, time of the day and area in which the test is given can all greatly affect the outcome. Additionally, the results can be affected depending on the officer giving it. According to the reputable National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are only three standard field sobriety tests which are usable. All other tests are not scientific and do not give a good indication as to a person’s level of sobriety or intoxication.

    Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

    •Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus or HGN- This test involves an officer verifying that a person’s eyes are jerking as they gaze to one side. While this can happen naturally to anyone, it can occur sooner in a person who is intoxicated. The arresting officer will hold a stimulus in front of their eyes and ask them to follow the object across their field of vision. The officer will look for certain clues that could indicate someone has been drinking. The first is that there is a lack of smooth visual following. The second is sustained and distinct nystagmus at the maximum deviation. Third, there is an onset of nystagmus before hitting a 45 degree angle.

    •Walk and Turn or WAT- This test involves the officer asking the individual to walk a visible or imaginary line using a heel-to-toe step. They ask them to walk nine forward and nine back. There are two stages to this test that include the instructional stage and the walking stage.

    During this test, officers will look for these clues:

    •No sense of balance
    •Starting before instructions are completed
    •Not stepping heel-to-toe
    •Stopping during the test
    •Improper turning
    •Using arms to balance
    •Stepping off of the line
    •Not counting the correct number of steps

    •One Leg Stand or OLS- This specific field sobriety test requires individuals to balance on one of their legs for at least thirty seconds. There are two stages that make up this field test just like the Walk and Turn test. There is the instructional stage and the balance and counting stage. During this test, an officer will look for different clues in order to determine if the individual is intoxicated.

    These are the clues an officer will look for:

    •Swaying while trying to balance
    •Hopping while trying to balance
    •Putting other foot down
    •Using arms for balance

    Each one of these standardized field sobriety tests come with specific instructions as to how they are to be performed by the officers in order for them to be deemed accurate at reading a person’s level of sobriety or intoxication. In many cases, officers do not perform these field tests the way they are supposed to according to the NHTSA requirements. When they are not performed how they are supposed to by the officers, the tests will be deemed inaccurate.

    In order to be convicted for driving while intoxicated in San Diego, California, the prosecutor will need to prove to the courts that you were impaired by consumption of alcohol beyond a reasonable doubt. The field sobriety tests mentioned above are used as evidence to support the prosecutor’s case even though they are not always reliable. There are numerous factors beyond alcohol consumption which may cause an individual to fail a field sobriety test.

    If you were driving and arrested for being under the influence, it is essential to hire the help of a professional DUI defense attorney to discuss the details surrounding your case and conclude what your possible defenses may be. If you feel you were wrongly arrested due to failing to pass a field sobriety test, you need to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

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