Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) were developed after much research conducted for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in order to determine the accuracy of FSTs.  Of all the FSTs studied, the NHTSA found that three tests proved to be most reliable -- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, the One Leg Stand, and the Walk and Turn.  These three FSTs became known as the “ Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.” 

 

All three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) are administered and evaluated in a “standardized” manner in order for the police to obtain validated indications that one is impaired and intoxicated.  The One Leg Stand is referred to as part of “Divided Attention Testing.”  In Divided Attention Testing, one is required to listen to and follow specific instructions while performing certain physical movements. 

 

In the One Leg Stand Test, suspects are instructed to stand on one leg while the other foot is suspended approximately six inches off the ground.  Then the suspect is to count aloud by the thousands (“one- thousand and one,” “one-thousand and two,” etc.)  until instructed by the officer to put his or her foot down approximately 30 seconds later.  The officer will look for signs of impairment including using arms to balance, swaying while balancing, hopping to maintain balance, and not counting in order.  The problem with such a test is that many people who have had nothing to drink are unable to perform such a test without using their arms to balance, without swaying, etc.   

 

District Attorneys often argue that an individual’s failure to perform such tests as the One Leg Stand test conclusively prove that the individual was intoxicated.  However, even the NHTSA has admitted that only 65% of individuals who exhibit two or more signs of impairment have a blood-alcohol content of .10% or higher.  Naturally, this opens the door for a California DUI defense attorney to argue the results of any such tests given.