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 Los Angeles DUI - Field Sobriety Tests

Field Sobriety Tests are given prior to an arrest for a Los Angeles DUI.  They are a series of memory or agility activities that are supposed to determine the sobriety of a person suspected of drunk driving.  Unfortunately it is well accepted that these tests are not clearly indicative of a person being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Studies confirm that Field Sobriety Tests are often performed incorrectly, even by sober participants.  Several factors come into play in determining whether a suspected drunk driver's performance on field sobriety tests should be admitted as a clear indication that they were driving under the influence in Los Angeles.

Improper Training of Officer's in Performing Field Sobriety Tests during a Los Angeles DUI arrest

Poor training on how to conduct a proper field sobriety test often results in failure by the suspected drunk driver.  There are only three nationally recognized field sobriety tests.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledges the Nystagmus horizontal gaze test, the one leg stand, and turn and walk test.  Even these three "standardized" field sobriety tests are often overwrought by inadequate instructions given by arresting agencies.  The guidelines to be followed when conducting standardized field sobriety tests at the scene of a suspected Los Angeles DUI are stringent.

The Nystagmus Horizontal Gaze Test for an LA DUI

This test is used to determine whether a person can smoothly follow an object that is moving at a steady pace.   The arresting officer must ask the suspected drunk driver to remove their glasses or hard contacts prior to conducting the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), as their presence may cause the results of the test to be inaccurate.  Furthermore, the HGN may be an imprecise indicator of sobriety if there are any pre-existing medical conditions that may affect a person's ability to follow a moving object or prevent jerkiness while tracking.

The Walk and Turn for a Los Angeles DUI

The walk and turn test falls under the category of divided attention field sobriety testing.  It assesses the suspected drunk driver's ability to listen to instructions and perform simple tasks.  An arresting officer will instruct the suspected drunk driver to walk heel to toe for nine steps, turn and return.  While this may sound like an easy task a number of factors could affect a person's performance other than intoxication.  The size of the heels a person is wearing, smoothness of the road, natural coordination, clarity of the instructions and weight of the suspected DUI offender all may cause negative scoring on this test.

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 Los Angeles DUI - Field Sobriety Tests

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The One Leg Stand in a LA DUI

The One Leg Stand is another divided attention field sobriety test where the suspected drunk driver is asked to stand on one foot with the other foot at least 6 inches off the ground and count allowed while being timed.  Again a number of key factors come into play other than intoxication could lead to failure of this field sobriety test.

 Balance is vital for the success of this field sobriety test, so people lacking natural balance are likely to fail whether they are in fact intoxicated.  In addition, the height of the heel, weight of the suspected drunk driver, age, mental condition and road condition may all play an important role in the success or failure of this standardized field sobriety test.

Things to Consider in a Field Sobriety Test 

There are several factors to consider that could affect the validity of a field sobriety test conducted during a Los Angeles DUI.  It is important to realize that someone pulled over for a LA DUI is probably being pulled over in the middle of the night when they are tired and fatigued.  This could greatly affect the performance of the suspected drunk driver and is more an indication of lack of sleep than of driving under the influence.

Secondly, anybody would get understandably nervous if red lights were flashing in pursuit of them, regardless if they were truly committing a Los Angeles DUI.  Anxiety and nerves could greatly influence the outcome of field sobriety tests since most of them test your focus and ability to understand.  Not to mention that being pulled over for any reason by a law enforcement officer is intimidating and stressful, whether you have been drinking or not. 

Next, physical attributes such as weight, coordination, age and physical condition play an important role in your ability to perform these agility tests.  Alcohol does not affect every person the same.  It is dependent on a number of circumstances and the field sobriety tests are not a clear indication of how everyone would perform if they were sober.  Also, pre-existing medical conditions could be responsible for poor execution of the field sobriety testing conducted at a Los Angeles DUI arrest. 

Finally, weather issues, traffic, and road conditions may all be to blame for failing a field sobriety test.  A slick road would cause anyone to slip, not simply a drunk driver.  Lights glaring from oncoming traffic could easily explain the inability to focus on the directions being given during a Los Angeles Field Sobriety Test.

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