Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) BEFORE Arrest and Suspected of DUI

DO NOT AGREE TO TAKE THESE TESTS

THESE ROADSIDE TESTS ARE OPTIONAL, but officers will almost never tell you that they are optional. These tests exist for one reason – to collect evidence AGAINST you to prove you are an impaired driver.

You have the RIGHT to decline the tests described below and YOU SHOULD POLITELY DECLINE to take them. Your refusal to take these roadside tests CANNOT BE used against you at trial. You can still be charged (and convicted of DUI) if you refuse these roadside tests, but the prosecutor will have less evidence to support a DUI charge.

Often officers will couch these tests with phrases like “I just want to make sure you are OK to drive” or “Before I let you go, I need to run a couple of tests to see if you are OK to drive.” DO NOT FALL for these lines. If they have probable cause BEFORE the tests are performed, you are probably going to be arrested anyway. Don’t be enticed to give them free information/evidence.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Although you can decline Roadside Field Sobriety Tests without consequence, failing to provide a blood, breath or urine sample under Georgia’s Implied Consent Law DOES HAVE IMPORTANT CONSEQUENCES. (For information about testing your blood, breath or urine under Georgia’s Implied Consent Law and the IMPORTANT CONSEQUENCES if you refuse to permit testing of your blood, breath or urine under Georgia’s Implied Consent — Click HERE)

If you decline to take the roadside tests, you may still be arrested for suspicion of driving less safe (if you are arrested without taking the roadside tests, you were likely going to be arrested anyway) but you will have deprived the prosecutor of valuable evidence which can be used against you at trial.

If you do participate in these tests, a skilled attorney can often use the tests to your advantage, but it is usually better not to give the prosecutor this evidence. Our firm has extensive experience in defending DUI charges whether you took these roadside tests or chose not to take them. If you have been charged with DUI or other traffic offenses in the greater Valdosta area or South Central Georgia, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can make all the difference between a DUI conviction or acquittal, click here or call us at (229) 520-5073 to schedule your free consultation.

Roadside Field Sobriety Tests Explained: Most of these roadside tests have little to no scientific basis and the best test is valid at a rate of only 77% – and that is ONLY IF the Officer performs the test perfectly. In most cases, the officer will not use the “official” names of these tests, but rather they will most likely ask if they can “look at your eyes” or some other phrase to entice you to say “OK”.

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN).This is the most reliable test the officer has and it is only accurate 77% of the time. Nystagmus is an involuntary twitching of the eyeball that is magnified with the presence of alcohol. This test is “officially” scored by moving stimulus (finger, pen, etc) laterally and having you follow it with your eyes only.
      • First, the officer is looking for the smooth tracking and following of the stimulus by both eyes. Alcohol negatively impacts both.
      • Second, the officer should move the stimulus slowly to move your eyes as far left and then as far right as possible to see if there is nystagmus at “maximum deviation.”
      • Finally, the officer should move the stimulus slowly to determine if your eyes show nystagmus “before” reaching 45 degree angle off-center.
      • Each of these three (3) tests are performed for both the right eye and left eye independently giving the officer a total of 6 clues. If an officer detects 4 of 6 clues being present, you will almost certainly be arrested for DUI.

This test can’t be “beat” in that you can’t “control” or “fake” nystagmus. While there are reasons nystagmus may be present without consuming alcohol, your best course of action when the officer asks to “look at your eyes” is to POLITELY DECLINE the test.

  • Walk and Turn Test (WAT) – This is a “divided attention” test. The officer will “place” you in a “starting position” then ask you to “hold” that position while listening to his instructions. It is a difficult test to “pass” if you are sober and near impossible to “pass” if you have had anything to drink
      • You will be “penalized” if you don’t hold the position while he is instructing you and later you will be “penalized” if you don’t follow his instructions to the letter.
      • The test requires you to take 9 “heel-to-toe” steps, count them out loud, turn around “as instructed” then 9 “heel-to-toe” steps back.
      • All these steps are taken either on a real or imaginary straight line and with your hands by your side.
      • Falling out of position during instructions, starting before the officer tells you to start, not making steps heel-to-toe, not turning correctly, not counting out loud, taking too many steps, taking too few steps, raising your arms to keep your balance, “falling” off the line are all penalties against you that show the officer you are “impaired.”

You can argue all day the test isn’t fair (and you would be right) but your best defense is to POLITELY DECLINE the test.

  • One-Legged Stand Test (OLS) – This is also a “divided attention” test. Similar to the WAT, the officer will “place” you in a starting position then ask you to “hold” that position while listening to his instructions. As with WAT, this is a difficult test to “pass” if you are sober and even more difficult if you have been drinking
      • You will be “penalized” if you don’t hold that position while he is instructing you and later you will be “penalized” if you don’t follow his instructions to the letter.
      • The test requires you to raise either foot about 6 inches off the ground and hold it up while counting until the officer tells you to stop.
      • As with the WAT, you will be penalized for putting your foot down before officer tells you to stop, for not counting out loud, raising your arms to keep your balance, hopping to keep your balance…all penalties against you that show the officer you are “impaired.”

As with WAT, you can argue all day that the test isn’t fair (and you would be right) but your best defense is to POLITELY DECLINE the test.

Portable Breathalyzer Test (PBT) – As with the other roadside tests, THIS TEST IS OPTIONAL and your best defense is to POLITELY DECLINE this ROADSIDE TEST. DO NOT confuse this roadside PBT (usually a handheld device) with the OFFICIAL breathalyzer at the police station. In Georgia, you can decline the roadside test WITHOUT penalty, but there ARE LEGAL consequences to declining chemical testing of your blood, breath or urine under Georgia’s Implied Consent Law. (For information about testing your blood, breath or urine under Georgia’s Implied Consent Law and the IMPORTANT CONSEQUENCES for refusing testing of your blood, breath or urine under Georgia’s Implied Consent — Click HERE )

This roadside portable breathalyzer (PBT) detects the presence of alcohol and provides a “number” to the officer. The officer will almost NEVER tell you the number. The results of this test ARE NOT ADMISSIBLE in court, but the test does provide the officer with valuable evidence. Again, regardless of what the officer tells you, unless you have had ABSOLUTELY NO ALCOHOL, do not agree to blow into this tube (but know that you may be required to blow into a breathalyzer machine located at the police station or suffer the consequences…Click HERE for information about testing under Georgia’s Implied Consent Law).

If you took these roadside tests, you need an attorney who knows how these tests are required to be performed and an attorney who knows how to argue the tests DO NOT in fact show you were an impaired driver. Even if you declined to take these roadside tests and have been charged with DUI or other traffic offense in the greater Valdosta area or South Central Georgia, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can make all the difference between a DUI conviction or acquittal, click here or call us at (229) 520-5073 to schedule your free consultation.

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