Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

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Suspected drunk drivers in California typically take field sobriety tests before getting arrested. These exercises shouldn’t even be called tests, because they’re designed to be failed. They exist only to create probable cause for a DUI / DWI arrest and to generate evidence for a drinking and driving court case. However, this evidence can be effectively challenged by a skilled defense attorney. A knowledgeable defense lawyer from The Kavinoky Law Firm can use the driver’s performance on a field sobriety test to demonstrate that the driver was not impaired.

Field sobriety tests fall into two categories: Standardized and Non-standardized. Three standardized tests recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, the Walk-and-Turn Test, and the One-leg Stand Test.

A second category of tests are such unreliable gauges of alcohol intoxication that they aren’t even recognized by the NHTSA, yet are still used by police. These Non-standardized field sobriety tests include the Rhomberg Balance Test, the Finger-to-Nose Test, the Finger Tap Test, the Hand Pat Test, the ABCs, the Numbers Backward Test, and coin tricks.

Non-standardized field sobriety tests are more easily challenged in court, because they aren’t recognized by the NHTSA as accurate indicators of intoxication. While police claim that these tests measure mental and physical impairment from alcohol use, many of these so-called signs can be traced to physical problems other than alcohol.

This is a key aspect of successful DUI / DWI defense: Experts agree that when it comes to alcohol intoxication, mental impairment always occurs before physical impairment. Some individuals have a high tolerance for alcohol and can mask signs of physical impairment, but mental impairment can never be disguised. If a driver is physically impaired but not mentally impaired, the physical impairment must come from a source other than alcohol, and a jury must acquit a driver on a charge of driving while impaired.

Keep in mind that in order to return a DUI / DWI conviction, a jury must be convinced of the driver’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced DUI attorney knows that the inherent flaws in non-standard field sobriety tests pose great problems for the prosecution, and create doubt in the minds of jurors.

Obviously, many factors unrelated to alcohol intoxication can cause physical impairment, including injury, illness, fatigue, or nervousness. By taking a complete medical history, a lawyer who specializes in California DUI / DWI cases can establish whether causes other than alcohol impairment contributed to any physical impairment. Ultimately, the results of field sobriety tests can be successfully challenged.