Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) are an incredibly important component in
DUI cases, which is why our DUI attorneys at the Law Offices of Virginia L.
Landry, Inc. have become SFST certified instructors. All law enforcement
officers use the same SFSTs for DUI stops. The standards are set by the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
There are three main types of SFSTs:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus or "HGN" testing
- Walk and turn test
- One-leg stand test
Note: Law enforcement can also use a combination of any of these three tests.
Everyone has some degree of nystagmus, impaired or not, but the nystagmus
is exaggerated when a person is impaired by alcohol. A law enforcement
officer can use an object, usually a pen or flashlight, and slowly move
it side to side, asking the driver to follow it with his or her eyes.
Here, the officer is looking for any one of three possible indicators
- The eyes are not following the moving object smoothly. Gaze appears broken
- The eyes jerk or twitch heavily.
- The jerking or twitching eye motion is within 45 degrees of the center.
Walk and Turn Test
This is one of the two "divided attention" tests, the one-leg
stand being the other. The law enforcement officer will instruct the driver
to take nine steps, one foot in front of the other, and then turn around
and walk back the other direction. Law enforcement will look for indicators
of intoxication such as poor balance, stops or begins the test without
waiting for instruction, swaying, using arms to balance, failing to touch
heel to toe, and more.
The law enforcement officer will instruct the driver to stand on one leg,
with the other approximately six inches off the ground, for about 30 seconds.
Swaying, putting the foot down, or using arms to balance are all potential
indicators of intoxication.
Are You Required to Take the SFSTs?
Unlike the chemical tests (blood and breath), there is
no penalty for refusing to take the field sobriety tests; you are not required by
law to take these tests. We just recommend that when you refuse, you do
it in a polite manner. If you don’t have to take these tests, what
is the purpose of them? Officers ask drivers to take these tests so they
can gain “probable cause” to make a DUI arrest. Not only that,
but field sobriety tests are typically recorded on the officer’s
dash cam or on their body camera, or both. Later, any such evidence would
be used against the DUI defendant in court.
Were you arrested for DUI after failing the field sobriety tests? If so,
contact our office for a
free case evaluation with OC’s