DUI Field Sobriety Evidence and Defense

DUI Field Sobriety Evidence and DefenseAnyone pulled over for suspicion of DUI has probably had the experience of a police or CHP officer asking you to perform a one leg stand, or walk and turn along a line. Did you take and pass the test? And were you then asked to blow into a preliminary alcohol screening device ? If you are facing drunk driving charges and have reason to believe that the results of a field sobriety test might figure into the case against you, contact us.

When a law enforcement officer asks you to perform a field sobriety test, whether it involves walking and turning or following a light moving across your field of vision (known in the trade as horizontal gaze nystagmus, or HGN), the officer is not actually trying to find out if you are intoxicated. Even the very few field sobriety tests that approach reliability cannot accurately identify a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent beyond 70 percent of the time – hardly the sort of evidence that will support a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

What the officer is really looking for is enough subjective evidence of intoxication to justify putting you under arrest. The officer who pulled you over is looking for such signs of drunkenness as slurred speech, the odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, or other indicators of recent and excessive drinking. The officer begins to gather this information from the moment you’re pulled over. In a close case, the process of getting you out of the car and engaging you in sufficient conversation to explain the field sobriety test you’re about to perform provides extra opportunities to support a random or marginal traffic stop with the reasonable suspicion or probable cause needed to justify an arrest.

The motorist does not need to perform a field sobriety test for the police officer who stopped the car. Under normal circumstances, the driver asked to perform the test is not yet under arrest. You are not required to help the officer gather the evidence that will result in your arrest.

In our experience, DUI cases that rely on the arresting officer’s report of field sobriety test results tend to have substantial weaknesses in the probable cause to make the arrest, in the lab results, or both. To learn how we can use field sobriety testing to attack other aspects of the DUI charge against you, contact us.

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