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Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in California

finger to nose test

What Field Sobriety Tests Do They Use in CA?

The field sobriety tests employed by police in Fresno and the surrounding areas include Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) and a number of non-standardized tests. They use these during an investigation of a possible incident related to driving under the influence (DUI).

The SFSTs were developed as a result of research sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and conducted by the Southern California Research Institute. A formal program of training was developed and is available through NHTSA to help law enforcement officers in the Fresno area to become more skillful at detecting DUI suspects, describing the behavior of these suspects, and presenting effective testimony in court.

Formal administration and accreditation of the SFSTs program is available through the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). The three tests are administered systematically and are evaluated according to measured responses of the suspect:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN),
  • Walk-and-turn (WAT), and
  • One-leg stand (OLS).

Many times the SFSTs are administered incorrectly, in an inappropriate setting or to an inappropriate candidate. Additionally, many officers will often use prior arrest reports and write the same observations over and over for persons arrested for DUI. Officers are rarely called on the carpet by inexperienced attorneys for these issues, however, a trained Fresno DUI attorney can make an officer look foolish if they administer these tests wrong, use non-standardized tests, or use the same language to describe them.

Some non-standardized tests include:

  • Touching finger-to-nose,
  • Romberg or modified position of attention,
  • Hand pat,
  • Finger count, and
  • Reciting the alphabet.

It is important to remember that with all of these SFSTs and FST's, the law enforcement officer observing the tests does not know how a person perform them when completely sober or without any alcohol in your system. Thus, the lack of baseline casts doubt on the interpretation of a person's performance in these tests when it relates to impairment.

The attorneys at Wapner Jones P.C. are SFST instructors and understand what is required of an officer to administer and evaluate your performance. It is vitally important that your Fresno DUI attorney has this knowledge and experience in order to rebut the officer's testimony that, based on these tests, you were under the influence and are unable to operate a motor vehicle safely.

Can a person refuse to submit to FSTs in California?

A driver is not required to perform FSTs. The performance of FSTs, provides evidence of a possible DUI to the investigating officer as they build their DUI case against a driver. Many law enforcement officers do not understand the testing criteria for FSTs and they may not remember them from their training at the police academy.

Oftentimes, there is the appearance that the suspect was already going to be arrested before submitting to the tests and the FSTs were administered so to allow the officer to record some observations for their arrest report.

A DUI suspect should exercise their right to refuse performing any FSTs. Normally, a law enforcement officer will not inform the suspect of the criteria they are looking for in the performance of FSTs. The officer will, usually, not describe the various clues they are looking for to the suspect.

Also, the officer not inform the suspect of the number of clues necessary for failure of the test by the suspect. During a typical traffic stop in Fresno, the law enforcement officer will ask the driver to perform several FSTs. At the conclusion of those tests, the suspect will be informed that are being placed under arrest on DUI charges.Prior to placing the suspect driver under arrest, the investigating officer will not discuss the performance of the tests with the suspect. It is not uncommon to have persons arrested for DUI in Fresno to relate that they performed well on the FSTs only to discover a completely different description of their performance on the FSTs in the arrest report.

Contact Us Today

If you are facing charges related to the offense DUI in the Central Valley region, including Kings County, Madera County and Tulare County, do not think that your only choice is to plead guilty. Take a moment to contact the DUI attorneys at Wapner Jones P.C. and schedule a consultation in order to discuss the facts of your case and be advised of your options.

Call (559) 257-4707 to get started.

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