Challenge Field Sobriety Tests Evidence in a California DUI
The field sobriety tests related to DUI's are very subjective things. What I mean by that is, it's really just the police putting people through a test they're sitting their watching it.
A lot of time, unless they have a body cam on or their dash cam is pointing at the person while they're doing it — which they rarely do — it's really just them looking at it and they're basically determining whether or not they think the person passed the test.
They sit there and critique how the person does each test and then they critique how the person follows instructions and then they will put each test in the police report, basically explaining what they believe the person did wrong.
Sometimes they actually will put in there that the person passed some of the tests, and obviously, that would be one way to challenge them and say, you told the person to count to thirty and they were able to judge and counted to twenty-nine. That's pretty good. That sounds to me that they're cognizant and they're good. So, there's definitely ways to challenge them.
Reviewing Video Evidence
The best way would be to just have videotape of whatever's going on. That's one of the first things we do if we've got a close-call DUI and the person is claiming that they passed all of the field sobriety tests and that actually means something in the case. You know, if you blew a .16 forget it. Who cares if you passed the field sobriety test because your blood alcohol level is double the legal limit.
If on the other hand, you were a .08 and they were refusing to give you something less than a DUI, then the field sobriety tests start to become important because you can then challenge the .08 and say that their breath machine is not 100% accurate.
You could have been a .06 based on the .02 error rate related to the machine. So, the next thing the prosecutors are going to try to do is use your field sobriety test to get you under Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) which basically says you have alcohol in your system and you can't safely operate a motor vehicle and the way they're determining whether you could safely operate a motor vehicle is by looking at those field sobriety tests.
So, if you've got video of it and you look fine in it, then obviously that would be something that could be used to help you.
Another way to challenge them is if there is dash cam video and it shows you getting out of the car and you're dealing with the police fine and you're walking fine — any of the stuff that could show that you're normal and don't have any problems, would certainly be a way to challenge the field sobriety tests.
Attacking Field Sobriety Tests Evidence in a DUI
But the best DUI defense attorneys are asking questions about it and pointing things out and really evaluating what the police put in the police report related to those tests and then attacking and challenging the police's presumptions and what they're saying about the test and whether or not the person passed them or not.
If they could pass some of the tests, then that's certainly something that could be used to argue that the person was fine and really could safely operate a motor vehicle because those tests are supposed to be designed to determine whether somebody can safely operate a motor vehicle.
So, really you're going to have to look at the police report itself and see what the police put in there and then you start to talk about it with your client. Your client could certainly get on the witness stand and challenge a field sobriety test and say they passed those tests.
They did everything they were supposed to. Maybe they didn't stand on one leg properly because they have an injury on one of their legs. The client could certainly testify to that. They could bring medical documentation to support that. That would be another way to challenge the test, which is through other evidence and through your client.
So, there's all sorts of stuff that can be done but you don't do it in every case. My example of someone blowing double the legal limit it's pretty silly to try to challenge a field sobriety test under that circumstance and you don't really need the field sobriety test to get the person for the DUI because their blood alcohol level is way over the legal limit.
Review Your DUI Case to Determine Best Strategy
So, you have to look at the facts and circumstances of the particular case before you start making decisions on what you're going to challenge and what you're not going to challenge and it really has to be a situation that makes sense to challenge a field sobriety test related to a DUI.
The only way you're really going to realistically determine that is by going over everything with your attorney. Your attorney is going to need to look at the police report and then talk to you about it and then they'll be in a position based on their experience and what it says in the police report to make an informed decision as to whether or not they really can challenge the field sobriety tests and whether it will make a difference to you and your case.