Field Sobriety Tests (FST)

Field Sobriety Tests (FST)

If you are stopped by a police officer for a suspected DUI in Las Vegas, Nevada, the police officer may ask you to perform field sobriety tests. Most people do not realize that these tests are optional, and the police officers that give the tests do not tell you that the tests are optional. However, there may be consequences for your refusal, for example, the Officer can take your refusal as an indication of probable cause and submit you for full evidentiary testing, i.e. blood test or breath test.

Recently in April of 2013, the United States Supreme Court decided that an officer must apply for a search warrant before he can force you to take a blood test. In Nevada, this decision can drastically change the way that DUIs are handled.

The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (also known as SFST) were adopted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (also known as NHTSA) to standardize the detection and arrest of those people suspected of driving under the influence. The United States Department of Transportation through NHTSA has compelled all the states to train their officers to use the SFSTs in detecting possible drunk drivers. Although there are specific tests that need to be conducted the officers are evaluating every action a driver is taking well before a suspected car is stopped all the way to their delivering the suspect to jail. Despite how you do on the actual tests the officer’s observations will come into play on if and when you are charged with DUI.

It is perfectly legal to politely refuse to take any standardized field sobriety test. These field sobriety tests are not actually tests. They are really physical agility and divided attention exercises that are highly subjective in nature, and they are designed so that you will fail. A person that is not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol would have trouble successfully completing these tests.

Las Vegas Field Sobriety Test Attorney

At the Law Office of Joel M. Mann, attorney Joel Mann has defended several clients against DUI allegations. He has been trained and certified to conduct the Standardized Field Sobriety tests, and because of that training knows the flaws in the tests and can identify when officers have failed to follow the proper procedures.

If you have been charged with Driving Under the Influence, it is important to contact Joel Mann right away so he can start working on your defense. For DUI charges, it is necessary to hire a lawyer that will fight for you. Contact Joel Mann at (702) 474-6266 for a free consultation about your DUI allegations.


Types of Field Sobriety Tests

There are three main standardized field sobriety tests Nevada police officers use to test for impairment. The police also can be creative and invent their own tests, however, this would not be considered a standardized test approved by NHTSA. Remember that these field tests are entirely subjective and up to the police officer's discretion whether you pass or fail. A police officer is able to determine whether he “saw” you fail one of the tests.

Here is a list of the common sobriety tests used:

  • Walk and Turn - This test consists of walking heel to toe for nine (9) steps, a turn, and nine (9) steps back. The officer is looking for 8 different clues, if a person indicates 2 or more clues the person will fail:
    • Can't balance during instructions
    • Starts before being told to do so
    • Stops while walking
    • Doesn’t touch heal-to-toe
    • Steps off line
    • Uses Arms to Balance
    • Loses balance on turn or turns incorrectly
    • Takes wrong number of steps
  • One-leg Stand - This test has the driver balance on one leg and count one one thousand and so on for 30 seconds. The test is supposed to measure the driver's ability to do two tasks at the same time. There are 4 different clues the officer is looking for, if a person indicates 2 or more different clues the person will be marked as failed the tests:
    • Sways while balancing
    • Hopping
    • Using arms for balance
    • Putting the foot down
    • Correctly counting the numbers is not an indication for failing the test but can be used by the officer as probable cause for further testing.
  • The pen test or HGN - Is also known as the "Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test." This test measures whether the eyes involuntary jerk or bounce when they are all the way to the left or the right. Historically, if someone fails this test, it is highly likely they have a BAC of .10 or above. There are 6 different clues that an officer is looking for if a person indicates for or more clues that are considered a failed test.

Other Tests That are Not Part of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests:

  • Stand with feet together and tip the head backward - This test will measure the driver's balance.
  • Count the number of fingers the officer raises - This test is supposed to measure vision, and determine if it is blurry or not.
  • Rhomberg stationary balance test - In this test, the driver stands with his feet together, and leans his head back to look up at the sky while holding out his arms to the side. This test measures balance.
  • Finger to nose - This test requires the driver to close his eyes and touch his nose with his finger. This test measures coordination and balance.

There are additional tests that could be performed. Remember that a police officer is going to tell you that under Nevada Per Se law you must submit to either a breath or blood test if you are arrested for an alleged DUI. However, if you do not consent to the test, it will force the officer to obtain a warrant. When the officer has to obtain a warrant he needs to provide to a Judge the probable cause that is necessary for your arrest. It is possible that this added procedure could allow you another defense in your case. It is important that you do not consent to any tests.

You do not have to submit to these Field Sobriety Tests, but a refusal might trigger an arrest depending on the officer's discretion. It is important to contact a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney immediately if you have been stopped for an alleged DUI offense.


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Resources

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - NHTSA was established to carry out safety programs created by the national Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966.


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Law Office of Joel M. Mann | Las Vegas Field Sobriety Test Defense Attorney

If you are stopped for an alleged DUI and fail a field sobriety test, there is still hope. Joel Mann has been trained and certified in Standardized Field Sobriety Tests just as the police have been. He has gone through the exact training and understands where the officers make mistakes.

Contact the Law Office of Joel M. Mann to talk about defending your DUI charge. There are still many defenses and strategies that can be used to either reduce the DUI charge or get the charge completely dismissed. Contact Joel Mann at (702) 474-6266 for a free consultation about your alleged DUI offense.