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Field Sobriety Tests: Los Angeles DUI Arrests

How well you performed Field Sobriety Test depends 100% on the subjective opinion of the police officer. Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) are administered to help the police to determine if a driver is intoxicated. If the police officer concludes that the driver did not successfully complete any combination of the FSTs, you will be arrested and taken to the station for a further, more thorough, blood-alcohol testing to determine the presence of alcohol and/or other drugs in your system.

Our experienced Los Angeles DUI attorneys understand that the FSTs are not precise means of determining intoxication. The tasks set forth in these field sobriety tests are sometimes challenging even to a sober person. Moreover, despite your belief as the driver that you passed the tests, you may still have been arrested for a DUI and taken to the police station. Our Los Angeles DUI firm has a certification in conducting Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, which assists us in determining the best defense approach to this evidence in court and at the DMV. As former Los Angeles Senior DUI prosecutors, we employ the best defense strategies to limit the officers’ claims that you "failed" your FSTs.

The following are the commonly administered field sobriety tests in Los Angeles police DUI investigations:
  • The one leg stand: This test requires you to stand on one leg and keep your balance for about 30 seconds.
  • Walk & turn: You are asked to walk in a straight line, heel to toe, and turn around.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: Officer looks for involuntary jerking of the eye when you follow an object or light with your eyes. Involuntary jerking is usually caused by the presence of alcohol or drugs in the blood, but may be causes by other physical ailments.
  • The finger to nose test requires you to bring your finger to your nose while your eyes are closed.
  • In the Alphabet test the driver is asked to recite the alphabet, oftentimes backwards.
  • Rhomberg test requires the drivers to close their eyes, tilt back their head and count to 30.
  • Portable breathalyzers, known as PAS devices, are used by arresting Los Angeles police officers in order to determine the blood alcohol level. These testing machines must be regularly calibrated - we determine if this is the case by reviewing logs, data, and calibration schedules before court.


Many factors may impair a driver’s ability to perform these tests regardless of the alcohol concentration in their blood. Common conditions such as distractions from the oncoming cars and lights, fatigue, nervousness, physical coordination, and even unclear test instructions may cause distorted performance on any FSTs. Our Los Angeles DUI attorneys are familiar with these evidence issues, and will work to limit the strength of the evidence the police collected against you. Our expert witnesses are able to present relevant evidence in court to attack Field Sobriety Test evidence. In fact, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has done studies to determine the validity of the FSTs. The NHTSA found that only three of the above FSTs have a high reliability rate.
  • The one leg stand with 65% accuracy.
  • The walk & turn test with 68% accuracy.
  • The Horizontal Gaze Hystagmus with 77% accuracy.
The FSTs tested in the study were conducted under clear NHTSA guidelines which are far from resembling the scene of the typical traffic stop and the emotional condition of the driver at the time. Even under perfect experimental conditions the results obtained indicate that about 30% of drivers (or 3 out of 10) will be wrongfully determined to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. In addition, some law enforcement officers are unaware of the NHTSA guidelines for administering the FSTs, increasing the likelihood of a wrongful arrest and conviction for DUI.

Contact our Los Angeles DUI lawyers immediately, to answer all your questions about Field Sobriety Tests and how it will affect your court case.

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