Everything You Need to Know About DUI and Field Sobriety Tests in Nevada
You are here: DUI > Field Sobriety Tests
If you have been pulled over for suspicion of DUI in Nevada, it is important to remember that any field sobriety test that may be given is voluntary. That being said, refusing to take the test may result in serious consequences.
It could potentially lead to a more extensive criminal investigation, as well as more severe legal penalties, such as having your license revoked or even jail time. Therefore, while you do in fact retain your right to refuse the field sobriety test, it is advisable that you consider all potential risks and thoroughly consult with a qualified lawyer before making a decision.
This article will provide an overview of what these tests entail and what you should do if asked to perform one.
What is Field Sobriety Testing?
Field sobriety tests (FST) are a series of physical and mental assessments that police officers use to determine whether or not a person is intoxicated. These tests can include walking in a straight line, standing on one leg, counting backward, reciting the alphabet, and more. If an officer believes that a person fails any part of the test, they may arrest them for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
There are three tests that are commonly used to administer field sobriety tests in Nevada: the one-leg stand, the walk and turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN).
One Leg Stand Test
The one-leg stand (OLS) test is a physical assessment designed to measure an individual’s balance. The officer will ask the individual to stand on one leg for a specified period of time, usually around 30 seconds.
The officer will then watch the individual’s performance and look for signs of swaying or using arms to balance themselves.
The aim of this test is to measure the driver’s ability to do two tasks at the same time. For example, the officer wants to see if the person can follow instructions and stand on one leg without losing their balance.
Walk & Turn Test
The walk and turn (WAT) test is another physical assessment that evaluates an individual’s coordination and balance. The officer will ask the individual to walk in a straight line, heel to toe, for nine steps while counting each step aloud.
After completing the nine steps, the individual must turn around using small steps and repeat the same process in reverse order.
During this test, the officer is looking for signs of swaying, using arms to balance, or difficulty following instructions.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
The last FST test is the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN). This test measures involuntary jerking of the eyes that can be caused by alcohol consumption. The officer will ask the individual to follow an object (usually a pen or flashlight) with their eyes as it is moved back and forth.
The officer is looking for signs of jerking eye movements and inability to track the object smoothly. If any of these signs are present, the officer may conclude that the person has consumed alcohol and/or drugs.
What Are My Rights Regarding Field Sobriety Tests?
In Nevada, you are not required by law to take part in field sobriety testing – though refusing such tests can be seen as an act of guilt by law enforcement officials.
If you were pulled over and the officer requests that you take part in a FST, you can politely decline. Do note that declining will most likely lead to an arrest.
This will also provide the officer probably cause to submit you for a blood or breath test to establish your level of alcohol consumption (otherwise known as your blood alcohol concentration or BAC).
If you do not consent to take a chemical test of your breath or blood, the police can physically restrain you and draw your blood as long as they obtain a warrant first. This allows for the results from this involuntary testing to be used in court proceedings.
It’s important to remember that even if you agree to take part in the testing, there is no guarantee that you will pass it – even if you are sober. Additionally, the results from these tests can be challenged in court with the help of an experienced DUI attorney.
Should I Take Part in These Tests?
The decision to take part in field sobriety tests is ultimately up to you. However, it’s important to keep in mind that refusing these tests may be seen by law enforcement as an act of guilt – so it is important for you to weigh your options carefully before coming to a decision.
If you do choose to take part in field sobriety tests, it’s important to remain calm and focus on following the officer’s instructions. If you feel like you are unable to pass the tests, politely declining may be your best option.
Overall, having an experienced DUI attorney on your side can help ensure that any evidence collected from FSTs is used lawfully and appropriately in court.
What Strategies Can My Lawyer Employ to Challenge FST Results in Court?
If you have been charged with DUI based on the results of field sobriety tests, your lawyer can employ a number of strategies to challenge the results in court. Below are some of these defense strategies we can use to invalidate FST results:
- FSTs are unreliable
- The setting was improper
- You Have a Medical Condition
- The Police Made Mistakes
FSTs Are Unreliable
In recent years, research has shown that FSTs are significantly unreliable in determining a person’s level of intoxication. This means that an individual can “fail” the tests even if they were sober at the time of testing. Your attorney can challenge the results in court based on this evidence.
For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s own findings show that these tests are only 65% to 77% reliable:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus: 77% accuracy rate
- Walk and turn: 68% accuracy rate
- One-leg stand: 65% accuracy rate
This means that there is a significant chance that the results from FSTs are inaccurate.
In order for an FST to be considered valid, it must take place in an appropriate setting. This means that the test should only be conducted on flat, solid ground and in a well-lit area.
Your attorney can challenge the results of FSTs if the officer conducted the tests in a location that was not suitable for testing or did not properly explain instructions.
Let’s say the police pulled you over and asked you to do the FSTs on the side of the road. But the road was uneven and full of small rocks and other debris, which made it difficult for you to complete the tasks. Your attorney can use this evidence to challenge the results of the FSTs in court.
You Have a Physical Condition That Affects Your Ability to Complete the Tasks
Some people may have a physical or medical condition that makes it difficult for them to complete FSTs. For example, someone with vertigo, arthritis, or a bad knee may find it difficult to balance on one foot.
Your attorney can use any underlying physical conditions that you have as evidence to invalidate the results of FSTs.
The Police Made Mistakes in Administering the Tests
It’s also important to note that the police officer administering FSTs must be trained and certified in order to ensure accuracy of results. Scoring Field Sobriety Tests is very subjective. If the officer is not properly trained, any resulting evidence may be considered invalid.
Furthermore, your attorney can challenge the results of FSTs if the officer administering them failed to properly explain instructions or made any other mistakes.
By employing these strategies and more, an experienced DUI lawyer can help you protect your rights and make sure that the results of Field Sobriety Tests are not used against you in court.
Charged with DUI? Contact an Experienced DUI Lawyer
Field sobriety testing is one tool used by law enforcement officers when assessing someone’s intoxication level during a traffic stop or roadside investigation; however, these tests are not foolproof and oftentimes produce false positives due to their subjective nature.
If you have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) after taking field sobriety tests in Nevada, contact a qualified DUI lawyer like The Defenders as soon as possible who can evaluate your case and advise you on how best to proceed with your defense strategy moving forward.
Our experienced DUI attorneys in Las Vegas can help you challenge the validity of FSTs and build a strong defense against your charges.
We invite you to contact us for a free consultation today to learn more about how we can help protect your rights. Give us a call at 702-333-3333, or fill out our online form
Frequently Asked Questions
What are Field Sobriety Tests?
Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are a series of physical and cognitive assessments used by law enforcement officers to determine if someone is impaired due to alcohol or drugs. Common FSTs include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn, and one-leg stand tests.
Am I required to participate in FSTs?
No, you are not required to take field sobriety tests in Nevada. While law enforcement officers may ask you to submit to testing, it is ultimately up to you whether or not you agree to participate. Just note that there are repercussions when you decline the FSTs.
What happens if I decline the Field Sobriety Tests?
If you decline to take the FSTs, law enforcement officers may draw an inference of guilt and make a probable cause determination that can lead to an arrest for DUI. You will then be subjected to chemical tests (blood or breathalyzer tests).
Are Field Sobriety Tests Accurate?
No, FSTs are not 100% accurate. Studies have shown that the horizontal gaze nystagmus test has an accuracy rate of 78%, while the walk and turn and one-leg stand tests have rates of 68% and 65%, respectively. Furthermore, improper administration of these tests or underlying physical conditions can also lead to inaccurate results.
Can I Challenge the Results of FSTs in Court?
Yes, you may be able to challenge the results of FSTs in court in certain circumstances. Your attorney can use any underlying physical conditions or mistakes made by the police officer administering the tests as evidence to invalidate them.
Will I automatically fail my FSTs if I don’t pass all of them?
Not necessarily. It is important to remember that these tests are subjective and the officer administering them will take into account any physical conditions or factors that may have impacted your performance.