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How to Challenge Field Sobriety Tests (FST) in Court

The state must prove you operated a vehicle with a blood-alcohol-content (BAC) higher than .08 to convict you of driving under the influence (DUI) in Washington. A wide variety of tests can be administered by law enforcement on the field, but what is not often known is that many of the tests are not approved by the National Highway Traffic Administration. Due to this lack of regulation, it is possible for an experienced defense attorney to challenge field sobriety test results when contesting a DUI charge in court.

Field Sobriety Tests Approved by NHTSA

Only three field sobriety tests are approved and standardized by the NHTSA: the one-leg stand, the walk and turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. Of these three tests, the horizontal gaze nystagmus is often criticized in terms of effectiveness. When these tests are performed properly, they still have a low accuracy rate. Tests popularized by pop culture and misused by officers, such as saying the alphabet backwards and touching your finger up to your nose, are not as reliable.

The Flaws in Administering the Tests

If you took an NHTSA approved field sobriety test, you can still challenge the results due to administrative errors. An officer’s experience and skill in having you take these tests can be addressed as part of your defense. It is possible that due to physical conditions, such as being at least 50 pounds overweight, being elderly or having a disability, these tests should not have been administered in the first place. If the administering police officer decides you are eligible for the testing, they must ensure you follow the procedure in safe conditions where weather, passing traffic, and other elements can not interfere with your results. Because such tests often occur at night, the amount of light present can also significantly affect your results.

How to Challenge Your FST in Court

The scientific validity of field sobriety testing is still under fierce debate. The testing often lacks any sort of scientific baseline for the officer to compare your results. Many of the results that can occur could be seen as incriminating by the police, even if they have nothing to do with alcohol consumption. There is also the fundamental issue that many officers do not understand why the results mean what they do, which can significantly alter their perception of test results.
If you have been arrested for drunk driving because of a field sobriety testing score, you should challenge these results to prevent a criminal charge on your record. Daniel J. Murphy, Jr. is a DUI defense attorney in Washington who can fight for your rights. Contact Murphy’s Law Offices today for a free consultation.

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