Torrance Field Sobriety Tests for DUI

About Field Sobriety Tests in Torrance

Unlike a chemical test, Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) are voluntary, something officers will rarely mention. There are no laws that require you to submit to these tests if you are stopped by law enforcement.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) lists three tests to be administered and evaluated in a standardized manner to assist in determining impairment due to alcohol or some other substance. It also assists in establishing probable cause for arrest. Police officers go through a formal program to assist them in spotting DUI suspects. If you have been arrested following the taking of a field sobriety test, it is urged that you contact a Torrance criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

The three field sobriety tests include, Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, Walk-and-Turn, and the One-Leg Stand test. If done properly, and administered systematically, the NHTSA believes measured responses will assist in determining the impairment of a driver. Others see these tests as fundamentally flawed and prejudicial no matter how they are administered.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) The HGN test measures the involuntary jerking of the eye that occurs naturally when looking to the side. The officer will ask that you keep your head straight and have you follow their finger or a pen as they move it from side to side. As they move to the side, they will measure the “angle of onset,” meaning at what point the eye begins to “bounce.” The angle is theoretically at an earlier point depending on the level of intoxication.

The lack of smooth pursuit can be caused by other factors other than intoxication. Still, this can be a basis the officer will use to make an arrest.

Walk-and-Turn (WAT) The Walk-and-Turn test is designed to measure “divided attention.” Here the officer is determining whether the individual is able to perform simple movements while following instructions. Generally, in this test the driver is asked to take nine steps, heel to toe, and then turn at the end and take nine steps back to the original point. The officer will look for eight indicators of impairment. These include:

  • If the suspect cannot keep balance while listening to the instructions;
  • Begins before the instructions are finished;
  • Stops while walking to regain balance;
  • Does not touch heel-to-toe;
  • Steps off the line;
  • Uses arms to balance;
  • Makes an improper turn; or
  • Takes an incorrect number of steps.

The NHTSA believes that two or more indicators show a blood alcohol level over .08% percent.

There are numerous innocent reasons a person may not complete these tests well. One needs to ask whether the person was nervous or whether they had any physical limitations such as an injury. The surface of the sidewalk or other location should be investigated. Maybe there was a misunderstanding of the instructions. During our investigation and client interview, we will determine the best way to attack this evidence.

One-Leg Stand (OLS)

The One-Leg Stand is a “divided attention” test according to the NHTSA. In this test the officer will ask the subject to stand on one foot and count aloud until told to put their foot down. Here the officer is looking for four indicators. These include:

  • Swaying while balancing;
  • Using arms to balance;
  • Hopping to maintain balance; and
  • Putting the foot down.

DUI Attorney serving Torrance

Officers are looking for two or more indicators. Again, there are some inherent problems with this test including nerves and other innocent physical issues. Other tests are often use by law enforcement. These are not recognized as the standard tests; however, they are often seen as recognized additions to the above tests. The most common is the Rhomberg Balance Test. In this test, the officer will ask you to stand at attention, close your eyes and estimate 30 seconds. Here the officer is looking for the inability to stand still or maintain balance.

There are many people, for very innocent reasons, who cannot complete the above battery of tests. Call The Law Offices of Decio Rangel Jr. immediately so that our legal team may evaluate your report and fight to keep your record clear.

If you have been arrested for DUI after being accused of failing a field sobriety test, contact a Torrance DUI attorney who can challenge the test results in court.

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