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Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are a set of standardized tests that law enforcement officers use to assess a person's level of impairment. These tests are designed to evaluate a person's physical and cognitive abilities, such as balance, coordination, and divided attention. It is important to understand your rights regarding these tests, as individuals in the state of California have the right to refuse them. In this article, we will provide clear knowledge about what field sobriety tests consist of, your rights in relation to these tests, and the purpose and significance of field sobriety tests in DUI cases.

What Do Field Sobriety Tests Consist Of? 

Field sobriety tests typically consist of three standardized tests approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These tests include:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): This test involves the officer observing the person's eyes as they track an object, usually a pen or flashlight, moving horizontally. The officer looks for involuntary jerking or nystagmus of the eyes, which can be an indicator of impairment.
  • Walk and Turn: In this test, the person is asked to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn, and then take nine heel-to-toe steps back. The officer assesses the person's ability to maintain balance, follow instructions, and perform the task without stumbling or losing balance.
  • One-Leg Stand: In this test, the person is instructed to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud for a specified duration, usually around 30 seconds. The officer assesses the person's balance, coordination, and ability to follow instructions.

It is important to note that while these tests are standardized, their accuracy and reliability can be subject to various factors, such as medical conditions, nervousness, fatigue, or environmental conditions.

Your Rights Regarding Field Sobriety Tests: 

In the state of California, individuals have the right to refuse field sobriety tests. It is important to understand that these tests are voluntary, and there are no legal consequences for refusing to participate in them. Refusing to take these tests cannot be used against you as evidence of guilt. It is within your rights to politely decline to perform these tests.

It is essential to remember that if you refuse to take field sobriety tests, it does not mean that you are exempt from other aspects of a DUI investigation. An officer may still proceed with other tests, such as a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test, or chemical tests, such as a breathalyzer or blood test, to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

The Purpose and Significance of Field Sobriety Tests: 

The primary purpose of field sobriety tests is to assist law enforcement officers in establishing probable cause to arrest a person suspected of driving under the influence (DUI). These tests are intended to provide officers with additional evidence to support their suspicion of impairment. By evaluating a person's physical and cognitive abilities, officers attempt to gather information about their level of impairment.

However, it is important to recognize that field sobriety tests are not foolproof and can be subjective in nature. Performance on these tests can be influenced by various factors unrelated to intoxication. Therefore, it is crucial to consult with a skilled DUI defense attorney who can challenge the reliability and accuracy of these tests if you have been charged with a DUI offense.


Field sobriety tests are standardized tests used by law enforcement officers to assess an individual's level of impairment during a DUI investigation. It is important to remember that these tests are voluntary, and individuals in California have the right to refuse them without legal consequences. While these tests can provide additional evidence of impairment, their accuracy, and reliability can be influenced by various factors. If you find yourself facing DUI charges, it is essential to consult with an experienced DUI defense attorney who can protect your rights and challenge the validity of field sobriety tests if necessary. Understanding your rights and the purpose of field sobriety tests empowers you to make informed decisions during a DUI encounter.

H Law Group Online

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