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Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in California

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What are the different Field Sobriety Tests in CA?

Standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) include a number of roadside examinations that are administered by law enforcement officers in the San Joaquin Valley, including Fresno, Madera, Tulare and Kings Counties during the investigation of a possible incident related to driving under the influence (DUI).

These SFSTs were developed as a result of research sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and conducted by the Southern California Research Institute. A formal program of training was developed and is available through NHTSA to help law enforcement officers in the Fresno area to become more skillful at detecting DUI suspects, describing the behavior of these suspects, and presenting effective testimony in court.

Formal administration and accreditation of the SFSTs program is available through the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). The three tests are administered systematically and are evaluated according to measured responses of the suspect:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN),
  • Walk-and-turn (WAT), and
  • One-leg stand (OLS).

Many times the SFSTs are administered incorrectly, in an inappropriate setting or to an inappropriate candidate. Additionally, many officers will often use prior arrest reports and write the same observations over and over for persons arrested for DUI. Officers are rarely called on the carpet by inexperienced attorneys for these issues, however, a trained Fresno DUI attorney can make an officer look foolish if they administer these tests wrong, use non-standardized tests, or use the same language to describe them.

Some non-standardized tests include:

  • Touching finger-to-nose,
  • Romberg or modified position of attention,
  • Hand pat,
  • Finger count, and
  • Reciting the alphabet.

It is important to remember that with all of these SFSTs and FST's, the law enforcement officer observing the tests does not know how a person perform them when completely sober or without any alcohol in your system. Thus, the lack of baseline casts doubt on the interpretation of a person's performance in these tests when it relates to impairment.

Terry Wapner has the necessary experience to evaluate the performance of a person who submits to FSTs and he is able to dissect what the investigating officer recorded in the DUI arrest report. Mr. Wapner is a NHTSA qualified instructor for the standardized FSTs, who has taken the same courses that the best-trained law enforcement officers have taken. In addition, Mr. Wapner taken a more intensive instructor course for FSTs. It is vitally important that your Fresno DUI attorney has this knowledge and experience.

Can a person refuse to submit to FSTs in California?

A Fresno driver is not required to perform FSTs. The performance of FSTs, provides evidence of a possible DUI to the investigating officer as they build their DUI case against a driver. Many law enforcement officers do not understand the testing criteria for FSTs and they may not remember them from their training at the police academy.

Oftentimes, there is the appearance that the suspect was already going to be arrested before submitting to the tests and the FSTs were administered so to allow the officer to record some observations for their arrest report.

A DUI suspect should exercise their right to refuse performing any FSTs. Normally, a law enforcement officer will not inform the suspect of the criteria they are looking for in the performance of FSTs. The officer will, usually, not describe the various clues they are looking for to the suspect.

Also, the officer not inform the suspect of the number of clues necessary for failure of the test by the suspect. During a typical traffic stop in Fresno, the law enforcement officer will ask the driver to perform several FSTs. At the conclusion of those tests, the suspect will be informed that are being placed under arrest on DUI charges.Prior to placing the suspect driver under arrest, the investigating officer will not discuss the performance of the tests with the suspect. It is not uncommon to have persons arrested for DUI in Fresno to relate that they performed well on the FSTs only to discover a completely different description of their performance on the FSTs in the arrest report.

Contact us today

If you are facing charges related to the offense DUI in the San Joaquin Valley, including Kings County, Madera County and Tulare County, do not think that your only choice is to plead guilty. Take a moment to contact Terry A. Wapner and schedule a consultation in order to discuss the facts of your case and be advised of your options.

What Happens Now?

Roadside arrest

It’s a frightening situation. You are arrested for DUI after submitting to a breathalyzer and participating in a couple of field sobriety tests. The officer confiscated your driver’s license and provided you with a temporary license. You were given a notice to appear in court in a few weeks. Now what? Fresno DUI attorney, Terry A. Wapner, can help you make sense of this situation, guide you through the process, and might be able to provide the defense that results in finding you Not Guilty!

Myths & Truths About DUI Charges


Myth: “There is nothing that a Fresno DUI defense lawyer can do.” Truth: Absolutely not true. Over the past 7-10 years, the conviction rate in California for DUI's is only around 70 percent. That means that 30 percent of the charges are being reduced to charges that are less than a DUI charge or not guilty verdicts are being returned. I have the ability and have won Fresno DUI cases. Do not give in to despair and believe that you are destined to lose. Entering a guilty plea to a DUI charge when the evidence against you can be challenged may result in an expensive mistake that could haunt you in the long run.