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Field Sobriety Tests in California

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has set up guidelines for field sobriety tests in an attempt to create a standard and reliable set of tests. These standard field sobriety tests are administered when a police officer suspects that a driver is intoxicated.

If the score of your tests gives the impression that you are impaired, you may be arrested for a DUI. If you pass the tests and the officer does not suspect intoxication you will most likely be sent to continue on your way. Have questions about field sobriety tests in CA? Feel free to contact the Law Office of Ivan O.B. Morse if you need clarification of a test or if you have been arrested for failing a field sobriety test.

One-Leg Stand Test

The first of the three standard tests is the one-leg stand test. This test is meant to determine the individuals' "divided attention" ability. Not only will the suspect have to focus on the physical strain of balancing, but also focus mentally on the instructions given and counting out loud. The officer will instruct the individual to lift their foot around six inches from the ground while keeping their leg straight.

The suspect will be told to hold that position and count starting from 'one thousand and one' all the way to 'one thousand and thirty,' while looking at their foot the whole time. While the suspect is performing the test, the officer will observe their actions and look for any clues of impairment.

Some of the clues that law enforcement looks for in a one-leg stand test include:

  • Swaying
  • Using arms to catch balance
  • Hopping due to loss of balance
  • Placing their foot back on the ground

Walk-and-Turn Test

This is another "divided attention" test involving both mental and physical tasks. In performing this test, the officer will instruct the suspect to imagine a straight line in their head or to walk on an actual line. They will be told to take nine steps, walking heel-to-toe, then make a pivot turn and take nine more heel-to-toe steps back.

There are several clues that the officer will look for while the suspect is performing this sobriety test including:

  • Not being able to keep balance while listening to instructions
  • Starting the test before instructed
  • Stopping while walking
  • Not touching heel-to-toe while walking
  • Stepping off the line
  • Using arms to catch balance
  • Turning incorrectly
  • Taking the wrong number of steps

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

This is not a divided attention test like the other two, but is also used to determine impairment of a driver. This test relies on the biology of our bodies and the involuntary jerking of our eyes, called nystagmus. As we look to the side, our eyes can naturally jerk even though we are unaware that it is happening.

This test involves the officer using a stimulus and moving it left to right after instructing the suspect to follow the stimulus with their eyes. The point at which the pupil starts to show nystagmus, the jerking, can shed light on their impairment level. If the eye starts jerking before the eyes have reached a 45 degree angle that is often linked with a high BAC level.

Need a lawyer for a DUI case in Dublin, CA?

If you have been arrested after your performance on a field sobriety test, contact the Law Office of Ivan O.B. Morse. You need the help of the top DUI attorney in Dublin to assist you in your case. The reliability of these tests vary greatly by the administration of the officer and the environmental surroundings. Our Dublin DUI attorneys can help you in building a defense and fighting against the results of your field sobriety tests.

Call our firm today to schedule your free case evaluation!

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