Field sobriety tests in Pierce County DUI cases – a brief history

Drivers in Pierce County should learn about the field sobriety tests given by police during traffic stops. The results of these field exercises often become evidence in DUI cases, but a smart Pierce County DUI attorney may be able to mount a successful challenge to the test results and/or the testing procedures.

History of Field Sobriety Tests

In 1975, the U.S. Department of Transportation, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”), examined several types of field sobriety tests. For each test, NHTSA studied the correlation between impairment and the test results. If a law enforcement officer administered the test in strict compliance with testing protocols, NHTSA found, the test results had good correlation with impairment.

Three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

After completing the study in 1977, NHTSA published its findings and validated three types of field tests — known as the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs). The standardized tests are the horizontal gaze nystagmus test; the walk-and-turn test; and the one-leg stand test. Each test has specific protocols which an officer must follow if conducting the test during a DUI stop.

Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Police officers can also perform a variety of field sobriety tests that have not been tested extensively by the NHTSA. These are called “non-standardized” field sobriety tests. These non-standardized testing procedures should raise concerns about the reliability of the test results. Some test results may have little correlation to alcohol impairment. Use of a non-standardized field sobriety test should be a red flag in your DUI case.

Contact Pierce County DUI attorney, South King County criminal attorney

An experienced Pierce County DUI attorney can review the facts and develop a strategy for challenging DUI field sobriety tests. If this type of testing played a role in your case, please contact me by phone or submit the Free Case Evaluation form on this page.

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