Field Sobriety Tests

FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS IN ARIZONA                                        

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If you are stopped and suspected of drunk driving in Arizona, there are several tests which the investigating officer may request that you perform to determine whether you are impaired by drugs or alcohol to drive a motor vehicle.  These tests are commonly referred to as "Field Sobriety Tests."  

Unlike a breath, blood or urine test which must be taken after you are arrested for a DUI, Field Sobriety Tests are completely voluntary.  Basically, you cannot lose your license for failing to perform these tests.  However, a prosecutor can consider or use your "refusal to do the field tests" during trial or when making a plea offer to resolve your DUI.  If you have been charged with drunk driving, you should immediately contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer.

Three Standard Field Sobriety Tests

There are three Field Sobriety Tests which have been developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for officers in Arizona to use during DUI investigations.  You should be aware that these tests are very subjective and whether you pass is largely in the discretion of the arresting officer. Each of the field tests must be administered and graded according to established guidelines.  If not, the results may not be valid and can be attacked by a skilled DUI defense lawyer.

  1. Walk and Turn  - This test, often referred to as "walking the line," requires a person to walk heel to toe on a straight line.  The person is required to take nine steps forward, pivot and then take nine steps back on that same line.  Although a real line such as a parking stripe is preferred, the officer could make a suspect follow an imaginary line as well.  Some of the mistakes officers will look for include not touching heel to toe while walking, raising arms to balance, failing to stay on a straight line, an improper pivot or incorrect number of steps.  
  2. One Leg Stand  - Here, an officer will instruct a DUI suspect to stand on one leg and raise the other foot about six inches off the ground.  A person will be told to point their toe out, look at their raised foot and remain in that position for approximately thirty seconds.  Using arms for balance, swaying, hopping, putting your foot down or not lifting it high enough will be viewed as mistakes.
  3. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus - The "pen test" is one of the most relied upon by officers when they conduct a DUI investigation.  A person suspected of DUI will be required to follow a pen or light with each eye.  If a person is unable to track the pen or light smoothly, commonly referred to as "bouncing," the officer may conclude that he or she is under the influence of alcohol or certain drugs.  DUI officers will look to see if that bouncing occurs when the pen or light is moved back and forth or when it is held out at the corner of a person's eye. 

Aggressive Defense to DUI Charges

If you have been charged with a DUI, you should immediately contact an experienced Arizona DUI Defense Lawyer.  There are a number of arguments which can be made to attack the reliability of Field Sobriety Tests and any conclusions by the arresting officer that you failed them.  These include:

  • Challenging that mistakes supposedly observed by the arresting officer were not errors under the NHTSA guidelines. 
  • Arguing that the arresting officer did not administer the tests in the prescribed manner
  • Showing that you were not a appropriate candidate for the field tests due to your age, disability, weight or medication 
  • Examining factors environmental surrounding the field tests such as weather, lighting, noise, traffic, etc.

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The State of Arizona imposes the harshest penalties in the nation against people convicted of DUI or drunk driving.  If you have been arrested for DUI, you face the possibility of losing your drivers license, serving time in jail and paying huge fines.  Attorney Raymond Kimble is a former police officer and DUI prosecutor who has been representing people charged with DUI for the last twenty years and has successfully defended clients in Tempe, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Mesa, Chandler, Phoenix and other cities throughout Arizona.  Raymond Kimble offers a free office consultation consultation and is available during the evening and weekends as well.  

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