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Field Sobriety Test

Driving symptoms such as weaving and lane straddling is enough suggestion for a police officer to suspect you are driving under the influence. Personal symptoms such as slurred speech and bloodshot eyes are further evidence of intoxication. But police officers will often conduct field sobriety tests (FSTs) to further determine intoxication.

FST’s are a series of exercises designed to test balance, coordination and divided attention. There are many different types of field sobriety tests but the more common ones are one-leg-stand, walk-and-turn, nystagmus (following an object like a pen or finger from side-to-side with your eyes), the Rhomberg test, hand-pat, finger-to-nose, fingers-to-thumb and alphabet recitation.

These tests have been scrutinized by researchers and studies funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have shown that only three field sobriety tests are effective in detecting a drunk driver: nystagmus, one-leg-stand and walk-and-turn. Law enforcement agencies across the nation have been recommending “standardized” battery of these three tests but law enforcement agencies in California have ignored this suggestion and use whatever tests they prefer. The accuracy of these tests has been repeatedly challenged in scientific studies and contrary to popular believe, they are not legally required. But keep in mind that if you choose to deny a field sobriety test, your consequences may worsen.

In order to make sure the results from standard and non-standard tests hold up in court, officers must administer the tests in adequate lighting and on level, dry ground. Another factor that must be taken into consideration is that elderly and overweight people often have difficulty with these tests when sober, so determining their level of intoxication is even more difficult. Usually under these circumstances, officers will back up the field tests with a breathalyzer test. If you fail your field sobriety test, make sure to contact a lawyer immediately. There may be a huge disconnect between the outcome of the field sobriety test and implementing it to law enforcement.


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