Field Sobriety Tests

A drunk driving charge, particularly for people facing a first offense, can bring about many fears and uncertainties. As a skilled drunk driving charge lawyer in Vancouver, I understand what you are feeling. I have ample understanding of the field sobriety tests that are administered at traffic stops and use this knowledge to secure the best possible outcomes for my clients.

At the law firm of Matthew R. Hoff, Attorney at Law, in Vancouver, I provide effective DUI defense services for people arrested for and charged with drunk driving. I bring my extensive knowledge of field sobriety tests to your defense. For a free initial consultation, contact me, a Breathalyzer test attorney in Washington, today.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

In Washington State, there are three standard field sobriety tests. As a skilled drunk driving charge defense attorney, I am knowledgeable about the problems with each type of test and the defenses available to my clients.

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN): The police officer will use a pen (or other object) and ask the driver to follow the pen with their eyes to look for signs of impairment. But what if you have a medical condition which makes following the instructions correctly and tracking pen with your eyes an impossibility?
  • Walk and turn: In this test, the individual is instructed to stand in the proper position while the test is being instructed. The individual is instructed not to start the test until the officer directs them to start the test. The individual is told to take nine heal to toe steps, pivot and then walk back nine steps heal to toe. The officer uses this test to look for signs of impairment. Again, what if you have back, leg or knee injuries that prohibit you from performing the test as instructed? What if the person being instructed to perform the test is wearing sandals or high heel shoes?
  • One leg stand: The driver is instructed to stand on one foot and count until instructed to stop. Repeat, what if I have a medical condition, an inner ear problem that affects my balance? What if I suffer from vertigo? What if I am asked to perform this test on an uneven surface?

These tests are incredibly problematic in determining if an individual can drive safely. In fact, someone who has not had a drop of alcohol might be unable to perform all of the field sobriety tests. Each person’s individual body, balance and coordination can skew the test results, giving law enforcement an inaccurate determination of whether that individual is drunk.

Apart from medical conditions that can skew a Field Sobriety Test, drivers are often asked to perform these tests under less than ideal conditions. Many times the driver is asked is perform the Field Sobriety Tests on the side of the road when it is late at night in a poorly lit area, it can be cold or wet during the winter months, the surface area of the shoulder on which you stand may be uneven and cars are whizzing by at high rates of speed. All the while the police officer is asking you to concentrate and perform these tests as instructed.

Finally, you have rights. Field Sobriety Tests are voluntary. In the State of Washington you are under no obligation to perform field sobriety tests. The burden of proof is on the State. Why make their job easier by voluntarily agreeing to perform a test sober individuals are capable of failing?

In addition to field sobriety tests, the police officer will administer a preliminary breath test (PBT). The PBT is administered by a hand-held device at the traffic stop. The results of the PBT are only used to establish probable cause and are not admissible as evidence.

Contact a Breathalyzer Test Attorney in Washington

If you or a family member was pulled over for drunk driving, call me today at 360-693-6228 or contact me online for a free consultation.