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Defense Attorneys Discuss Field Sobriety Tests in San Diego

Insight from a San Diego DUI Defense Lawyer

After a police officer observes behavior that is typical of a person who is driving under the influence, they may pull you over and ask you to perform field sobriety tests to determine whether you are intoxicated. These tests are generally used to determine your level of balance, coordination and ability to follow directions, all of which are considered to be impaired if you have been using alcohol.

If you have been pulled over, submitted to field sobriety tests, and arrested for DUI in San Diego, call a skilled drunk driving defense lawyer at jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys at (760) 630-2000. We can utilize our 30+ years of experience, background in law enforcement, and insight from hundreds of criminal cases to help combat your charges.

Take action to defend your future: fill out a free case evaluation form.

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Types of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

While you may have seen officers request a variety of different field sobriety tests on TV or in real life circumstances, not all tests are considered "standardized." The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has only sanctioned three field sobriety tests for use by officers. All other tests are not considered as scientifically definitive as the standardized ones.

The three standardized field sobriety tests include:

  • One Leg Stand – In this test, you will be instructed to stand on one leg and hold the other about 6 inches off the ground, while counting, until the officer tells you to stop (typically 30 seconds). If you sway, use your arms to balance, put your foot down, or hop to regain balance, you may be considered impaired.
  • Walk and Turn – You will be instructed to walk heel to toe in a straight line for 9 steps; turning and repeating. If you fail to take the full 9 steps, sway off the line, or have to use your arms to balance, it may indicate intoxication to an officer.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus – The officer will instruct you to follow an object or light with your eyes. While doing so, they will be looking for uncontrolled jerking in your eyes (nystagmus), which is considered to be caused by impairment due to alcohol.

Did you know that all of these tests are optional? If a police officer pulls you over on the suspicion of drunk driving, you do not have to submit to theses physical exams, especially since they are designed for you to fail! These tests are often very difficult pass even when completely sober. With the pressure of a potential arrest hovering over you, it can be easy for any person to make a mistake. That is why it is best to politely decline performing any of these tests—even if you think you can prove your sobriety.

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Understanding the Faults of Field Sobriety Tests

Standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) are one of many forms of evidence that may be used in your drunk driving case. Remember, these tests are NOT mandatory after you have been pulled over for DUI. However, if you do end performing a field sobriety test and getting arrested for DUI as a result, our San Diego DUI defense lawyer is here to help challenge the evidence against you.

Field sobriety tests are not necessarily a valid way of determining DUI. For instance, a person may not be able to properly carry out a field sobriety test even when he/she has had nothing to drink, simply because his/her coordination or balance is not good. In other cases, an officer may not be able to judge a person's reaction time, coordination, or nystagmus correctly, wrongfully charging a person under limited evidence. Even if you submit to a SFSTs, they are not as strong of evidence as a police officer and prosecutor may like you to believe! It is crucial that you seek counsel right away.

Ready to start creating a defense that will stand up against your charges? Reach out to jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys today at (760) 630-2000 to discuss your case in a free consultation.

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