Field Sobriety Tests

Field Sobriety Tests Our Redwood City DUI Attorney Explains Field Sobriety Tests

An experienced Redwood City DUI attorney is intent on ensuring that motorists understand the basis of California laws governing driving under the influence. Approximately 200,000 people are arrested in the state of California each year for driving under the influence, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Despite the enactment of stricter penalties associated with driving while intoxicated, impaired motorists remain a fixture on roadways in California. A motorist is well served understanding what happens when a law enforcement official makes a stop based on a suspicion of driving under the influence. A major component of a DUI stop is the administration of what are known as field sobriety tests.

Field Sobriety Tests and the Breathalyzer Test

Some motorists confuse field sobriety tests with the Breathalyzer test. In most instances, certain field sobriety tests are administered in advance of the Breathalyzer. A person is asked to submit to a Breathalyzer examination of initial field sobriety tests are not passed. The Breathalyzer test involves the use of a mechanical device that is designed to measure the level of alcohol in a person’s blood. In California, a blood-alcohol level of .08% and above is deemed over the limit when it comes to driving under the influence.

National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration Test

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration endorses a three-part field sobriety test for an individual suspected of being under the influence when operating a motor vehicle on a public roadway. The three components of the examination are:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
  • Walk and Turn
  • One-Leg Stand

The elements of a field sobriety test are widely seen on television programs and in films — and oftentimes spoofed, for that matter. Nonetheless, these test components are utilized by nearly all law enforcement agencies in the United States that deal with potentially intoxicated motorists.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

Horizontal gaze nystagmus is a medical term that refers to the involuntary jerking movement of an eye that naturally occurs when an eye gazes from one side to another. The jerking action technically is called nystagmus. This jerking oftentimes is significantly exaggerated when an individual is impaired by alcohol. During this phase of a field sobriety test, a law enforcement official looks for three separate indicators:

  • Inability to follow a moving object in a smooth or fluid manner
  • Obvious eye jerking when the eye reaches its maximum deviation
  • Distinct eye jerking when the eye is within 45 degrees of center
Walk and Turn

The second component of the standard field sobriety test is the walk and turn. This element of the test process usually is undertaken easily by a person who is not impaired by alcohol. Typically, the walk and turn involves a person being directed to take a specified number of steps (usually nine), head to toe and in a specific direction. A person is directed to turn at that juncture and repeat the process in the opposite direction.

One-Leg Stand

The final element of the field sobriety test process is the one-leg stand. The suspect is directed to stand on one foot, with the other about six inches off the ground. The individual is left to stand in this manner while counting for 30 seconds. Swaying, hopping, or putting the raised foot down can be indicative of impairment, as an experienced Redwood City DUI attorney will advise.

Contact a Redwood City DUI Attorney

A person arrested for DUI needs to be highly proactive. Contacting a Redwood City DUI attorney at Silveira Law immediately after a DUI stop and arrest is crucial. Silveira Law can be reached at (415) 795-3890. A Redwood City DUI attorney from Silveira Law will schedule a no-obligation, no-cost initial consultation.