Overview of Field Sobriety Tests

Posted by Fred Koberlein | Jan 09, 2016 | 0 Comments

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Overview of Field Sobriety Tests

Drunk driving is a major problem in our society, there's no doubt about that. Many people get behind the wheel thinking they are fine to drive, only to be pulled over later and charged with DUI based on a blood alcohol level that is just a bit too high. One thing you may face when driving through a checkpoint on a Friday night is the field sobriety test. Here is an overview of field sobriety tests and what to do if you should fail.

Field Sobriety Tests: The Basics

Field or road sobriety tests are the first step police often use to determine if a driver may be under the influence of alcohol or other illicit substance. These tests often involve activities which allow the officer to gauge the balance, coordination, attention level and other elements of sobriety, and usually precede the use of a breathalyzer.

The results of a field sobriety test can be used as evidence in a DUI case and can establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has established a Standardized Field Sobriety Test which consists of three elements: The horizontal gaze nystagmus, one-leg stand and the walk-and-turn. Put together, these three elements are between 90 and 95% effective in indicating intoxication.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

When a person gazes to the side, their eye involuntarily jerks a bit. When that person is intoxicated, the jerking is far more pronounced. When an officer tests for this, they have the person follow a moving object such as their finger, and the degree to which the eye jumps at 45 degrees from center and at maximum deviation.

One-Leg Stand (OLS)

This is a test of balance and coordination. The suspect is requested to stand on one foot, with the other held about six inches above the ground, and count to 30. Officers watch for swaying, hopping, the need to use arms for balance, or putting their foot down.

Walk-and-Turn (WAT)

The walk and turn test is designed to check how well the subject is able to complete multiple tasks at once — multitasking while attention is divided. The subject may, for example, be asked to take a number of steps (usually nine) along a straight line while walking heel-to-toe, then turn on a single foot and repeat the action.

Other Tests

Other activities that are not part of the standardized test may include standing feet together while tipping the head backwards, counting fingers, closing the eyes and touching the finger to the nose, leaning backwards, facing upward, while holding arms out wide or other tests of coordination, attention and focus.

If an officer believes based on the test that the driver may be intoxicated, they can arrest the driver on probable cause and/or request a breathalyzer test. In Florida under the law of implied consent if you are pulled over you are assumed to consent to these tests and refusal can carry penalties. This is why if you face charges of DUI, you should always seek the services of a qualified defense attorney. Read up a bit about what we do, and call us for a consultation of your case today or email us through our contact page.

About the Author

Fred Koberlein

Fred Koberlein is a trial attorney who opened Koberlein Law Offices after acquiring extensive legal experience in three legal practice areas, which are: personal injury law; criminal defense; and local government matters which require you to appear or present your matter before your local government Boards, government Councils, and government Agencies. Mr. Koberlein began trial preparation through an externship as a legal clerk with the Judges of the Third Judicial Circuit for Florida prior to his graduation from the University of Florida, College of Law.  After law school Mr. Koberlein was dedicated to becoming a trial attorney and worked with the Public Defender's Office from 2004 to 2007, where he was promoted to handling felony cases within eight months of hire.  Mr.  Koberlein has handled over 1500 criminal cases ranging from possession of cannabis, DUI, serious felonies, white-collar crimes, violations of probation hearings, and countless motion hearings. Mr.  Koberlein began practicing in the areas of personal injury and insurance defense during 2006.  Mr. Koberlein's experience in prosecuting personal injury claims against those insurance companies he was not representing and defending other insurance companies and their customers provided a unique experience where he was able to learn what each side anticipates from the opposing party.Next, Mr. Koberlein was hired by a City to defend the City's interests and three additional Cities quickly followed and retained Mr. Koberlein to protect their interests.  Currently, Mr. Koberlein represents a total of four (4) municipalities in the North Florida area.  As Mr. Koberlein focused on civil litigation he remained passionate about representing individuals charged with misdemeanor and felony crimes as well as civil litigation issues. Mr.  Koberlein has the experience and reputation to negotiate a favorable resolution in your matter, and if that is not possible, to provide the best, most zealous trial representation available.  Utilizing competent and trusted investigators and experts, your case will be prepared so that the best result will be achieved.  If you or a loved one is hurt, damaged, or is facing criminal charges, you want a qualified, hard-working attorney who will explain your options to you in a straightforward, commonsense, and honest manner. Education and Practice Experience: University of Florida; Gainesville, Florida; Bachelor of Science, 1997 University of South Florida; Tampa, Florida; 1998 University of Florida, College of Law; Gainesville, Florida; 2003 Bar and Court Admissions: Florida Bar, 2004 – Present All 67 Counties in Florida All 20 Circuits in Florida U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida Professional and Civic Activities: Florida Bar Trial Lawyers, 2007 – Present Florida Bar Business Law Section, 2007 – Present Florida Bar Criminal Law Section, 2004 – Present Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 2004 – Present Third Judicial Bar Association, 2004 – Present Mr.  Koberlein is committed to his clients and devotes himself to protecting their interests from the beginning to the end of their case.  Mr. Koberlein has spent his career helping clients defend themselves against criminal charges, fight insurance companies, and proceed through the bureaucratic process of local governments.  Mr. Koberlein welcomes the opportunity to meet with you and evaluate your legal needs and provide you with an experienced and competent analysis.


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