Field Sobriety Tests
Field Sobriety Tests (“FSTs”)
Field Sobriety Tests are tests the arresting officer uses to check for the driver’s ability to both physically perform the given test, and to see how well the driver follows directions. The major problem with these tests is that the officers give these directions very quickly, very poorly, often not following proper procedure, and they’ve had plenty of experience performing and instructing these tests. The driver who is pulled over, usually in the middle of the night, hearing these instructions for the first time while being interrogated by law enforcement, often on the dangerous side of the roadway, will naturally have trouble understanding and following each and every minute detail. This “failure to follow directions”, however, will be counted as a “clue” that the driver was therefore under the influence of alcohol, thereby justifying the arrest.
“Standard Field Sobriety Tests”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) conducted several studies, utilized other studies across the nation, and formulated what it found to be the most reliable field sobriety tests used by law enforcement. They are known as “Standard Field Sobriety Tests”, or “SFSTs”.
After studying the most common six field sobriety tests across the country, NHTSA and the Southern California Research Institute (SCRI) determined the following three to be the most accurate.
Those tests are: 1) horizontal gaze nystagmus – the officer is supposed to check your eyes using a stimulus, and will be checking for various indicators which might show that you are under the influence of alcohol; 2) The Walk and Turn – what the general public often misstates as the “walk the line” test, where the officer observes you walking heel to toe and should be looking for certain indicators; 3) The One Leg Stand – another test where the officer is checking for “divided attention skills” of both following directions and physical performance.
The results of their studies were as follows:
a. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) – by itself, this test, WHEN DONE PROPERLY, was accurate 77% of the time
b. The Walk and Turn – by itself, this test, WHEN DONE PROPERLY, was accurate 68% of the time
c. The One Leg Stand – by itself, this test, WHEN DONE PROPERLY, was accurate 65% of the time
What does it mean to be “accurate”? Accurate means, WHEN DONE PROPERLY, this test would have the above percentage of accuracy that the person being tested was exhibiting a blood alcohol level of .10 or higher at the time.
Therefore, even when done accurately, these tests have “reasonable doubt” built into them because of the percentages that they are wrong, or inaccurate.
This is just an example as to why it is important that you hire an attorney who is educated as to this highly specialized area, who understands and knows the proper procedures and administration of these tests, and someone who can ensure the accuracy of the tests to enforce your rights.
Do not talk to police. Do not provide statements, even if you think they are statements which declare your innocence – they will only be twisted and used against you. First, consult with a lawyer. Do not handle these cases on your own.
Do not consent to a search of your person/residence/vehicle. Demand a search warrant.
Ask for your lawyer. These are your constitutional rights – exercise them!