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Field Sobriety Tests in Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Cases

Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2019 by Andrew Charles Huff

Most people stopped for Driving Under the Influence are familiar with standardized Field Sobriety Testing, a set of physical agility exercises administered by officers suspecting someone of Driving under the Influence. These tests are difficult even if you have not consumed alcohol and especially so if you have drank even a little alcohol.

The best advice is do not submit to any field sobriety tests even f you have only drank a small amount. All you will be doing is helping the arresting officer to build a case against you, which is the primary purpose of these tests. Many sober people will have difficulty passing these sobriety tests, especially if they are older or overweight.

“Field sobriety testing” (or FSTs) as performed on the streets, roads and highways throughout the state, is not a scientific indication of a person’s level of intoxication. There are no conclusive studies confirming the results of any field sobriety test to legal intoxication. The best studies show a very questionable rate of accuracy.

Only three of the tests available to police officers have been given any real “scientific” legitimacy by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These three tests are:

The Walk-and-Turn TestThe One-Leg-Stand TestThe Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

Non-standardized Tests

All other tests besides the three noted above are not validated in any official or scientific manner. In fact, many of the tests involve closing your eyes and balancing. Without a visual frame of reference, no “balance” test can truly measure a person’s sobriety or level of intoxication. Therefore, tests such as the well-known Finger-to-Nose Test and the Rhomberg Balance Test should be declined if requested to perform. Other tests, such as counting backwards or reciting the ABCs backwards, or counting one’s fingers in a specified sequence, have no scientifically proven correlation whatsoever to one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.

In Washington, you have the absolute legal right to refuse to submit to field sobriety testing (FSTs). If you decide to take the tests, the officer will subject you to his or her own interpretation and opinion concerning your performance on the tests. Therefore, these tests are in actuality very subjective and non-scientific measures. Remember that the officer is already investigating you for DUI and in all likelihood, is planning to arrest you for Driving Under the Influence even if you do perform these field sobriety tests.

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