Our Cincinnati DUI Lawyers Can Challenge the Evidence

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, also known as SFST’s, are comprised of three tests intended to determine whether an individual is likely to be above .08 percent Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). The research to develop the SFST’s was conducted at the Southern California Research Institute and funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the early 1980’s. Since that time, police officers and defense attorneys across the country have been trained and certified in the administration and interpretation of these tests.

At The Law Offices of Steven R. Adams, LLC, our firm’s founder is a certified instructor in field sobriety testing and is certified in the administration and evaluation of these tests. We have created this page to help clients better understand what to expect during these tests.

During vehicle stops, officers check for the following when evaluating and scoring the tests:

  • Balance issues
  • Divided attention skills
  • The ability to follow directions

Nerves, weather conditions, certain medical conditions, and even footwear or lack thereof can affect performance on the tests. The interpretation of the tests is a subject of controversy because of their subjective nature, especially without videotape evidence. It is important to remember the tests are voluntary. You can politely refuse to perform the tests and ask to speak with an attorney. Learn more about the different kinds of tests that are used below.

Dealing with DUI/OVI charges? Call us at (513) 929-9333  for help.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

Nystagmus is the natural, involuntary jerking of the eye as the eye gazes from one side to the other. Officers also look for smooth movement during tracking while conducting the test. The test is conducted while an officer holds a stimulus, usually his or her fingertip or pen, approximately twelve to fifteen inches from the suspect's nose and slightly higher than eye level.

Officers are looking for these six clues (three per eye) when conducting the test:

  • Lack of smooth movement
  • Distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation
  • Onset of nystagmus prior to forty-five degrees

Walk and Turn Test

An individual is instructed to walk nine steps forward touching heel to toe, turn while taking a series of small steps, and walk nine steps back touching heel to toe. While walking, individuals are instructed to keep their arms at their sides, touch heel to toe on each step, and count each step out loud. Suspects are also instructed to maintain a balance position while the officer finishes the instructions on the test and are instructed that once you start walking you are not to stop until you have completed the test.

It is often impossible to find a designated straight line. In these instances, the individual should “imagine” a straight line while performing the test. The test must be performed on a dry, hard, non-slippery, level surface to be in compliance with NHTSA standards. Officers are checking for the individual’s ability to follow directions and physically perform the test.

Officers check for the following clues while conducting the test:

  • Inability to keep balance during the instruction phase of the test (feet break apart)
  • Starting the test before the directions are finished or before you are told to begin
  • Stopping while walking to steady self and regain balance
  • Does not touch heel to toe while walking (more than ½ an inch of space)
  • Stepping off the real or imaginary line
  • Raising arms more than 6 inches for balance
  • Taking more than 9 steps
  • Improper turning

The test should not be conducted on individuals over the age of 65 or anyone with a physical or balance illness, disease, malady, or infirmity. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also notes that individuals 50 pounds or more overweight would have problems doing the one-leg stand test.

One Leg Stand Test

This 30-second timed test requires an individual to stand on one leg and raise the other leg approximately 6 inches off the ground. The officer should instruct the individual to stand on the leg of their choosing. While raising the other leg, the toe should be pointed so that it is parallel to the ground. Individuals will be instructed to keep their arms at their sides at all times and keep watching the raised foot. The individual needs to count out loud “one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three” until instructed to stop.

Officers check for four clues while conducting the test:

  • Swaying while performing the test
  • Arms are raised more than six inches for balance
  • Hopping on one foot
  • Putting the raised foot down

Cincinnati DUI/OVI Lawyers Defending Your Rights

Unfortunately, despite “training” and “certification,” there is always room for error. In our defense, we can and have attested to the fact that these tests are often not administered properly. We identify any errors by analyzing any questionable or suspicious methods, the subjectivity of officers, and other circumstances involved during the administration of tests.

Given that these tests are voluntary, politely refuse to submit to all tests and ask to speak to a DUI/OVI attorney or drug crimes attorney. If you did choose to perform these voluntary tests, we will evaluate the results as well as the report officer's interpretation, to identify any weaknesses in the evidence. Our firm can vigorously defend you by presenting the solid evidence, especially regarding your alleged insobriety during the traffic stop or refusal to submit to testing. If at any time during the progress of your case, you have questions, do not hesitate to reach out to The Law Offices of Steven R. Adams, LLC for answers.

Are you or someone you know facing criminal charges? 

If you are facing criminal charges, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Steven R. Adams is recognized by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, The Best Lawyers in America, National Trial Lawyers Top 100, and is one of U.S. News' Best Law Firms.  Please contact us online or call our Cincinnati office directly at 513-929-9333 to schedule your free consultation.