Challenging Field Sobriety Tests
Even if you’re completely sober, it can be difficult to successfully perform field sobriety tests on the side of the road. While field sobriety tests are commonly requested before a DUI arrest, most people don’t understand their legal rights concerning these tests. And, even if you fail a field sobriety test, a skilled DUI defense lawyer can minimize their impact.
What Is a Field Sobriety Test?
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) endorses a series of standardized field sobriety tests. These tests are used by police officers to evaluate a potentially intoxicated driver. The standardized field sobriety tests include:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): Sometimes called the “pen test,” this test evaluates your ability to visually track an item. An inability to smoothly track an item or excessive eye-jerking may be evidence of intoxication.
- Walk and Turn: You are asked to take a series of steps along a straight line, turn on one foot, and return in the other direction.
- One Leg Stand: You are asked to stand on one leg for a period of time. Swaying as well as other balance difficulties may be evidence of intoxication.
Other non-standardized tests involve counting, number/letter recitation, and dexterity testing. If you fail a field sobriety test, the officer may request a breathalyzer test or arrest you for suspected DUI.
Do I Have to Perform Field Sobriety Tests in Arizona?
Many people mistakenly believe they must perform field sobriety tests. While Arizona has an implied consent law, it only applies to chemical testing performed after an arrest for a suspected DUI. Once you are arrested, a refusal to undergo a breathalyzer or blood test does have very serious penalties, such as the suspension of your driver’s license.
However, implied consent laws simply do not apply to a field sobriety test. You can politely refuse to participate or refuse to answer questions if you are pulled over. If you refuse a field sobriety test, the state cannot use the subjective results of the test as circumstantial evidence in court. However, the officer may still arrest you if there is probable cause for intoxication, such as slurred speech or the smell of alcohol.
A DUI Defense Lawyer Can Minimize Results From Field Sobriety Tests
Many people cannot successfully pass a field sobriety test while sober. For example, you may have balance or gait issues that impair your ability to pass the “walk and turn” or “one leg stand” tests. And, these tests can be difficult to complete in the dark while on the side of the road with traffic whizzing by you. Do not panic if you fail a field sobriety test. A skilled DUI defense attorney can help you dispute and minimize this evidence. Criminal defense lawyers understand that field sobriety tests are:
- Subjective (based simply on the officer’s observations and opinions),
- Have false positives, and
- Not always administered properly.
Depending on your circumstances, there may be strong evidence that your field sobriety test “scores” are inaccurate, misleading, and should therefore be disregarded.
Contact a DUI Lawyer for a Free Case Review
Defense lawyers frequently challenge negative results from field sobriety tests. If you are facing DUI charges, you should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible. An expereinced lawyer can help you understand your constitutional rights and formulate strong defenses. The Law Office of Howard A. Snader specializes in criminal defense and will use Mr. Snader’s extensive experience as a prosecutor to fight for you. Contact us for a confidential evaluation.