If you have been charged with a DUI, you were likely arrested after having submitted to some blood alcohol tests. One such test that many people submit themselves to during a arrest, is a field sobriety test. However, a field sobriety test is a poor indicator of intoxication and many people fail it.
In order to understand the role of a field sobriety test in a DUI arrest, let’s take a step back and walk through an arrest.
Donny is driving home from a birthday party and had a beer and nothing more. He has not slept well the night before and is tired and decides to call it an early night. A beer does not cause Donny, who is 6’2” and 170 pounds to be intoxicated. On his way home, he makes a right turn at a red light without stopping. This is grounds for officers to stop Donny, since he is in violation of traffic laws. Donny is stopped and officers smell beer on his breath from the one beer that he had.
All officers need is probable cause, like the smell of beer, to ask you to submit to a field sobriety test if you have been lawfully stopped. Here, Donny was lawfully stopped since he made a right turn without stopping at a red light. Additionally, officers smell beer on his breath so they have probable cause to ask him to stop and submit to alcohol testing.
Donny, being confident that he is no intoxicated, agreed to comply. He is asked to do several field sobriety tests. One such is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN). This test requires the driver suspected of being intoxicated to follow a pen or flashlight that the officer slowly moves from one side to the other. They are looking for whether the driver can follow the object smoothly, or if there is jerking when the eye is looking at the far side.
A second test is called the walk and turn test. An officer asks the driver to walk heel to toe along a straight line, then return in the same manner in the opposite direction. This test can be difficult even sober, if there is an incline, if you are wearing heels or boots, it can also be difficult.
Lastly, the officer may ask Donny to submit to the one leg test in which they driver is asked to stand with one foot approximately 6 inches off the ground for about 30 seconds. If a person’s balance is not good, or if there is an incline or they are wearing heeled shoes, this could be a difficult task.
Field sobriety tests are not indicative of intoxication, yet they are used as if they are. If the strongest evidence against you is based on a field sobriety test, then there is a chance you can fight the charges with the help of a Los Angeles DUI lawyer. Legal knowledge and experience will help giving you the best possible chances of fighting the charges against you!