Field Sobriety Testing
Law enforcement officers are trained to identify vehicles that weave in and out of traffic lanes, speed, or exhibit other suspicious driving behavior. If an officer believes there is probable cause, he or she can initiate a traffic stop to determine if a driver is operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The officer may ask the driver to step out of the car and perform simple physical and mental tasks as part of a field sobriety test. Depending on the performance by the driver during these sobriety tests the officer may either continue with a DUI investigation, or let the driver leave if no signs of impairment can be identified.
If a driver appears to be intoxicated, the officer may ask for permission to conduct further testing to check for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level. A driver with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher is legally drunk and subject to arrest and subsequent DUI charges. If facing allegations of a DUI, contact a Phoenix DUI lawyer for legal assistance and counsel as soon as possible following an arrest.Challenging Field Sobriety Test Evidence in DUI Cases
One of the ways in which a law enforcement officer can check for inebriation in a motorist is by conducting what is referred to as the field sobriety test (FST). The field sobriety test is a set of physical actions that the officer has the driver perform. Typically, these field sobriety tests (FST's) will give the officer some indication as to whether the driver is intoxicated, and if so, to what general level (moderate to severe). The field sobriety test can vary from state to state, but there are three standardized tests used across all states, and these are:
- One-legged stand – Here, the motorist suspected of DUI is asked to stand on one leg for a period of time. If they cannot perform this action, the officer may conclude that their lack of balance is due to consumption of alcohol.
- HGN (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus) – In this test, the driver is asked to follow an object with their eyes only, the object usually being a small item like a pen. The action is used to determine whether they can smoothly follow the object’s motion with their eyes, or if their eyes are jerking involuntarily due to alcohol consumption.
- Walk-and-turn – The driver is asked to walk nine steps, in a straight line, “heel-to-toe.” They must then turn around, and walk the nine steps back in the same fashion. If they cannot stay on a straight line, or lose their balance, the officer may assume that they are under the influence of alcohol.
Field sobriety testing can be unreliable due to many factors. Officers conduct the tests in an uncontrolled environment, usually on the side of the roadway, often in gravel or on uneven pavement. Most tests occur at night when it is difficult to see and therefore, can be a challenge to obtain accurate results from the sobriety testing. Sobriety testing consists of physical coordination tasks that an impaired individual may have difficulty performing. Additionally, a driver may be nervous about being stopped by officers and therefore, unable to successfully perform the tasks.
You need a lawyer for DUI charges in Phoenix who has an in depth understanding of all aspects of these types of cases, including sobriety testing, case investigation and preparing a strong legal defense on your behalf in order to determine the best course of action in resolving a DUI case. An experienced defense attorney will identify any legal or factual weaknesses in a case and challenge the evidence presented by the State, including field sobriety test results, as well as blood and/or breath test results. Make an appointment today to consult with a Board Certified Criminal Defense Attorney regarding your legal options.Board Certified DUI Attorney Serving Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Gilbert, Chandler, Queen Creek, San Tan Valley & the Entire East Valley
The Law Offices of Trent R. Buckallew, PC has been representing individuals charged with DUI for nearly 20 years. During that time, the Firm has helped many clients avoid convictions, as well as the harsh penalties that often accompany those convictions. If you have been arrested for DUI after failing a field sobriety test, contact the Firm, and an experienced DUI attorney will conduct a thorough case investigation, identify weaknesses that could potentially undermine the government's case, and prepare an aggressive legal defense on your behalf. The results of a field sobriety test may be challenged in court by your attorney, as they are dependent on an officer’s subjective interpretation, which could result in a reduction of charges, a dismissal, or even an acquittal after trial, in your DUI case. It is imperative that you retain an attorney who has the experience necessary to analyze and challenge the evidence. Mr. Buckallew is well versed in both criminal law, having undertaken an academic concentration in criminal litigation during law school, and has also received his Master of Forensic Science (M.F.S.) degree which gives him a unique perspective and understanding of the complexity of the science behind the evidence.
Contact a Phoenix DUI lawyer to discuss your options if you are facing DUI charges after failing a field sobriety test.