From the perspective of a defense attorney, the standardized field sobriety tests serve no purpose. From the officer’s perspective, the tests help to determine whether or not somebody was under the influence of intoxicants and could not safely drive.
I feel the tests do not serve any purpose. I have gone through the standardized field sobriety test training myself, and know that the different tests are interpreted in an extremely subjective manner. Although they are supposed to be objective, they are subject to what the officer believes he or she saw.
I do not see how someone’s ability to drive a motor vehicle safely can be determined based on subjective tests that have nothing to do with driving; they are just a cycle of psycho-physical tests that do not correlate to driving. In my opinion, looking at someone’s driving would be a better way to judge whether or not that person was under the influence to such a degree that their ability to drive safely was impaired.
Is There A Scientific Basis For These Tests?
Yes and no. Validation studies have been performed on several different tests, like the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the one leg stand and the walk and turn. These tests were technically validated by studies done several decades ago, but there were still a number of issues with those studies. These studies were not peer reviewed, and they did not have a baseline for comparison – it lacked a true control sample to compare these results to. There are inherent flaws in the studies that were done, although the studies that supported these standardized field sobriety tests claimed that the tests had some sort of intrinsic value.
At What Point Are The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests Administered?
Typically someone gets pulled over for whatever reason that may be, maybe they have a brake light out or they were speeding or weaving across lanes on the highway. The reason for the stop doesn’t matter as far as field sobriety tests are concerned. The field sobriety tests come into play once the officer has contacted the driver and determined that the investigation should proceed as a DUI investigation. Some officers believe that every stop they make should be a DUI investigation. Some officers wait until they either smell alcohol or get a confession from the driver that he or she has been consuming alcohol.
Do They Administer And Handle The Test The Same Way For Men And Women?
Yes, they are administered the same way to men and women. If the driver is female and is wearing heels, the officer is supposed to advise her to remove her shoes. So, modifications might be made based on the circumstances, but normally the tests themselves are handled the same way.
What Happens After Someone Is Given The Standard Field Sobriety Tests?
Usually, the person will be arrested regardless of how they performed, unless they’ve submitted to a breath test and it came back below California’s legal limit of 0.08. Even with a below 0.08 result, a person might still be arrested. These tests are done before someone is arrested and can be declined because they are voluntary.
Officers ask people to perform these tests to strengthen the case they are building against the individual. Someone who refuses the test will still be required to take another chemical test – either a blood or breath test — after being arrested. Those post-arrest chemical tests cannot be refused; if they are, there will be consequences regarding the person’s driver’s license and possible criminal penalty enhancements.
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