Are There Weaknesses to Standardized Field Sobriety Tests?

Police officers rely on multiple methods to determine whether motorists are under the influence of alcohol. One of the most traditional methods is the “Standardized Field Sobriety Test” (SFST). The SFST consists of three separate tests that officers use to measure coordination, balance and eye movement. The three parts of SFST are as follows:

  1. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Police will ask you to follow their finger or another object side-to-side with your eyes. With this test, police are looking for involuntary jerking, a sign of alcohol intoxication.
  2. The walk-and-turn test. Police will ask you to walk heel-to-toe in a straight line for nine steps. After walking nine steps, you will have to turn around and do the same in the opposite direction.
  3. One-leg stand test. During the one-leg stand test, police will ask you to lift one foot six inches off the ground while counting for thirty seconds.

Despite being used by police for decades, the SFST has some major weaknesses that could jeopardize your freedom. You could fail one part or all parts of the SFST even if you are not under the influence of alcohol. Factors that could increase your chance of failure include but are not limited to:

  1. Your clothing. The type of shoes or other clothing that you are wearing could increase the chances of failure.
  2. Medical conditions. People with certain medical conditions cannot perform the SFST. If you have a severe back condition, chronic pain or mobility problems, then it might be impossible to complete the SFST.
  3. Age. Your age can also affect your ability to successfully complete the SFST. As you become older, your ability to balance yourself declines.
  4. Medications. Certain prescription medications could affect your balance. For instance, SSRIs, a common type of antidepressant, may cause dizziness.

Police will likely arrest you on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol if you fail the SFST. Cruiser dashboard cameras will also likely record your arrest and test failure. The prosecution might use this video footage against you.

The SFST has serious risks that you should take into consideration. Fortunately, you do not have to submit to the SFST in California. Police will likely ask you to take another type of test if you refuse. If police have probable cause for an arrest, they may take a blood or urine sample.

Arrested for a DUI in California? Contact Our Central California Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you or a loved one were arrested for a DUI in California, then it is important to speak with an attorney. The Central California DUI attorneys at Hammerschmidt Law Corporation could help you determine options to defend yourself or your loved one against a DUI charge. You can schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys by calling (559) 258-2298 or by using our online case review form.