Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

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Drivers under investigation for DUI / DWI in California are typically given a field sobriety test before being arrested. These physical agility exercises, which are usually given next to a busy freeway or on the street, aren’t tests in the traditional sense, because they’re designed to be failed. Their real purpose is to establish probable cause for a drunk driving arrest and to generate evidence for a court case. However, the skilled attorneys from The Kavinoky Law Firm can effectively challenge field sobriety tests and other evidence in a drunk driving case to create reasonable doubt of the driver’s guilt.

Field sobriety tests fall into two categories: Standardized and Non-standardized. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHSTA) has standardized three field sobriety tests – the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, the Walk-and-Turn Test, and the One-leg Stand Test. Because these three tests have been recognized by the NHSTA, they carry more weight in court than non-standardized tests, but a skilled attorney can successfully challenge the results of standardized field sobriety tests in court.

Field sobriety tests reputedly assess the mental and physical impairment caused by alcohol intoxication, but most of the so-called signs and symptoms of alcohol impairment can be traced to physical problems unrelated to alcohol use.

Alcohol causes both mental and physical impairment, but mental impairment always takes place before physical impairment occurs. Physical impairment can be masked by individuals with a high tolerance for alcohol, but mental impairment cannot be disguised. Therefore, if a driver suffers from physical difficulties but no mental impairment, the physical problems were caused by a source other than alcohol.

In order to return a DUI / DWI conviction, every juror must be convinced of the driver’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A skilled attorney knows that the reliance of field sobriety tests on physical agility poses serious problems for prosecutors, and creates reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors.

There are many issues unrelated to alcohol use that can cause physical impairment, such as illness, injury, fatigue, or nervousness. An experienced DUI / DWI defense attorney from The Kavinoky Law Firm will take a complete medical history to determine whether causes other than alcohol may have contributed to any impairment, and use this information to challenge the results of a field sobriety test.