When it comes to the field sobriety tests or FST's as they call them related to DUI's, the role that they're playing is trying to determine whether someone can safely operate a motor vehicle related to a DUI arrest.
In other words, the police are going to claim that you are DUI. They're going to arrest. The question becomes, how are they going to prove that? One of the weapons, so to speak, that the police have in this effort to try to show that you're a DUI or driving under the influence and you can't safely operate a motor vehicle in Los Angeles, is they've got these tests. They have all kinds of crazy tests. They have people counting backward with the alphabet. I mean who can even do that not having any drinks. That's not an easy thing to do.
DUI Tests Designed To Confuse You
The tests were designed to confuse you – to mess you up. And it's not just walking the line and turning around and following the officer's pen to see if your pupils are bouncing up and down – they've got all sorts of tests. They're asking where you are coming from to try to trip you up – where you're going – what time is it – do you know where you are – do you know what freeway you're on?
These are all part of their field sobriety tests. Again, they're trying to see, basically, how stupid they can make you look because if the case goes to a jury trial, that's what they're going to be using with the jurors. They're going to say, yeah, we pulled the person over and they didn't even know where the heck they were. If you're a juror, you're going to think, wait a minute, how do you not know where you are? How many drinks did you have?
So, that's what these field sobriety tests are designed to do. They're also designed, obviously, to test coordination. But, what people don't realize is when the California Highway Patrol, for example, pull you over and think you're DUI, they're on you right from the beginning.
They're going to be noting how you're driving, whether you're weaving around, whether you're driving dangerously. In other words, are you driving like an intoxicated person. Then, once you get out of the car, they tell you, you need to get out of the car.
They use a funny word. It's called gait. Basically, they're going to say you had an unsteady gait. In other words, you were walking wobbly. They're going to say you were swaying. When they have you touch your nose and put your head back, people are swaying back-and-forth.
So, these field sobriety tests start from the very beginning of them seeing you and thinking, there's something wrong with the way that you're driving, and then they're going to look at your breath. Do you smell like alcohol? How are you talking? Are you slurring your speech? Are your eyes bloodshot and watery?
These are all things you're going to see in DUI reports and this is just the way that they do it – the way they've been trained because they're looking at it – and this is where they have an advantage – they're looking at it from a jury perspective – right when they pull you over.
Tests To Support DUI Charges At Trial
In other words, if this case goes to the jury trial I want to be able to testify that I arrested this person for a DUI. Don't forget, they're writing the report after the fact. After they've already decided to arrest you and send the case to the prosecutors for you to be charged for the DUI. So, they're going to now put in all the information that supports their conclusion that you were a DUI in Los Angeles County.
So, all of these field sobriety tests are very important. Sometimes I've even seen them say, this person was so intoxicated I didn't even have him do the field sobriety test because I thought they might fall down and hurt themselves.
That hurts in the sense that if they're not telling the truth, now we don't even have any field sobriety tests and the defense can use that against them sometimes, especially if there's a video of you being okay on their MVARS or their dash cam on their police vehicle.
So, field sobriety tests play a huge role in determining whether you can safely operate a motor vehicle for purposes of DUI's in Los Angeles County and your DUI defense attorney is going to need to be familiar with the field sobriety tests and how to challenge them and what types of things they should see and not see, and realize that these field sobriety tests as they relate to DUI's are very subjective on the part of the police.
It's the police watching. It's the police evaluating and a lot of times once they make the decision they're going to arrest you, it doesn't really matter how you do on the field sobriety tests, they're going to say you didn't pass them.
Lawyer To Challenge Field Sobriety Tests
So, as a defense attorney, if you're going to take a DUI to trial in Los Angeles, you have to be ready to go as far as challenging the police on field sobriety testing – getting your client to testify about how they feel they did on the field sobriety tests and why they felt they passed them.
Also, to get whatever other evidence you can find to challenge the field sobriety tests, because as you challenge the field sobriety tests related to a DUI in Los Angeles county, so you challenge the entire theory of the prosecutors that your client was too intoxicated to drive a motor vehicle.