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DUI Field Sobriety Tests (FST): Why and How to Refuse FSTs Whether You Are Impaired or Not

Standard Field Sobriety Test v. Field Sobriety Test

Field Sobriety Tests in Arizona are a battery of preliminary roadside test that police use to screen impaired drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has only three approved  roadside tests referred to as Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST)s which are sponsored and developed to assist police offers in early detection of DUI and DWI suspects. Police officers must be formally trained and accredited to administer the tests. The three standardized tests are:

  1. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
  2. The Walk-and-Turn
  3. The One-Leg Stand

The police must have the driver’s consent to administer them because they are not mandatory in Arizona. There are consequences of refusal which are discussed below. Most DUI lawyers are in agreement that a person should politely refuse the tests. The reasons why they recommend refusal is the history of inaccuracies; and the inability for many people unimpaired by alcohol or drugs to pass them.  The police give instructions for the test; administer the test; judge your performance; and then finally report on it. If the suspect fails the standard field sobriety tests in Arizona it may be used as evidence against them.

Accuracy of DUI Field Sobriety Tests

Field Sobriety tests are not always reliable. Therefore, they should be admitted only as preliminary evidence against a suspect, and not solely to convict someone of DUI. In order for the FST to be accurate to any degree, they must be instructed, administered, and reported in strict accordance with the NHTSA guidelines. DUI FSTs are rarely administered in exact compliance with the NHTSA rules and guidelines. These guidelines require the presence of appropriate testing conditions; and equipment including:

  • Location;
  • Lighting;*Noise;
  • Traffic;
  • Climate and weather conditions;
  • Consideration of the individuals body weight;
  • Age of the suspect;
  • Medical conditions; physical impairments;
  • Balance and coordination skills;
  • Instructions provided by the police officer;
  • Language or translation understanding between the suspect and police;
  • Evaluations;
  • Reporting

Any Field Sobriety Tests that are non-standard,  may be suppressed and not allowed as valid evidence in court against the defendant.

How to Refuse DUI Sobriety Tests and Consequences of Refusal

Consequences of refusal to submit to a DUI fst may include an immediate arrest by the officer for “probable suspicion of DUI” if other cues are present. The refusal may also be misconceived and the prosecution will try to use it against you in court. They will attempt to claim that you refused it because you feared failure, being impaired as a result of alcohol or drugs. Your reason should be that you respectfully refuse to take them because of high failure rates in non-impaired drivers and you do not want test results to be perceived as though you were impaired.

FSTs often have high failure rates amount unimpaired drivers. SFSTs have a high failure rates for both impaired and unimpaired drivers. In either case, the failed tests can be used against you. For this reason, Maricopa County DUI defense attorneys recommend that you politely refuse to participate in the FSTS and SFSTs.

Resource Links: http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/alcohol/SFST/appendix_a.htm