Types of Field Sobriety Tests

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Although field sobriety tests are still in use, they are inaccurate and misused by many law enforcement officers. Who believes that if you are arrested following the field sobriety tests and the officer demands you take a chemical test, choose the blood test. Do not take the PAS or preliminary alcohol screening breath test. This test is usually offered at the scene by the arresting officer immediately following the field sobriety tests. The officer is required by statute to inform you that the PAS is voluntary and is not the implied consent test. I would estimate that in 90% of the cases the officer never tells the driver this information. It's usually something like “ok, I have one more field sobriety test to give you, blow into this”. You are not required to take the PAS test and in almost every instance it will be of no benefit to your case. Politely refuse.


Field sobriety tests are designed for you to fail them. There are no peer reviewed scientific studies that indicate a correlation between FSTs and alcohol or drug impairment. In fact, several studies have shown that experienced officers, observing someone take these tests, will decide to arrest even when the person had no alcohol in their system. In most jurisdictions, the tests are not filmed. You may be positive that you passed the tests and then read in the police report that the officer says you failed. Why? Because it's your word against the officer's and he/she will slant the report against you. Generally, I can effectively neutralize or even turn the officer's testimony regarding you performance against them.

At present there are only three Field Sobriety Tests sanctioned by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

  1. HGN or Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. This is a prime example of junk science. The claim is that by observing eye movement, it can be determined if you have been drinking and even how much. The problems with this test are many, not the least of which is that it is almost impossible to accurately conduct and score this test by anyone other than an ophthalmologist. It's a joke to think that an officer in the field can do it properly.
  2. WAT or Walk and Turn. NHTSA requires that in doing this test, there must be a line the subject can see. In all my 40 years of experience I have only seen this done once by an officer who actually took out a mat from his trunk that had a yellow line drawn on it. Other problems include making you stand in the heel to toe position while the instructions are given to you. This gets you off balance immediately. Also, the officer may attempt to distract you while you are doing this test.
  3. One Leg Stand. This requires that you lift you foot 6 inches (no more, no less) and stare at it while you count out loud (usually to 30). By staring at your foot, you lose the horizon and become prone to losing your balance. Ever see a tight rope walker look at his feet instead of staring at the horizon?


If any of these tests are used on you, get in touch with a Walnut Creek DUI lawyer by calling The Law Office of Blackie Burak at (925) 933-4500 for help with these outdated and harassment-style tests.