Burbank Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are a series of tests utilized by the Burbank Police Department and all other law enforcement agencies operating in the Burbank area. These tests are used to determine whether a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The field sobriety tests are used during the earlier stages of the Burbank DUI Process.
The law enforcement officer conducting the vehicle stop may request that the driver conduct a battery of different field sobriety tests that are meant to test motor skills, hand-eye coordination and balance. These are skills that become impaired when a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. None of the tests used are definitive and all have individual flaws that can later be attacked in court. As a result, police in Burbank rely on one's performance on these to tests only to determine if there is probable cause to arrest the driver and conduct further chemical testing.
Field sobriety tests commonly used in Burbank include the following:
- Walk And Turn Test – A suspect is told to take precisely nine straight steps, heel-to-toe with one foot directly in front of the other along a line in the road, usually a lane demarcation. After nine steps, the suspect must swivel around and take nine steps in the opposite direction. An impaired driver may have difficulty maintaining balance and may also forget to follow the instructions precisely.
- One Leg Stand Test – During this exercise, the suspect must lift his or her foot in the air and hold this pose for thirty seconds. Impaired drivers will have a difficult time maintaining this pose and will sway significantly or even fall over.
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test – This test requires the officer to make observations about the driver's involuntary eye movements. The driver will be asked to keep his or her head still and to follow an object with only his or her eyes as the object is slowly moved left and right. At a certain angle, the eye begins to flutter slightly. The point at which these movements start differs for people under the influence. Unfortunately the results of this test are impossible to verify, as no video recording is precise enough to pick up minute eye movements. In addition, it relies on the judgment of a law enforcement officer in the field to make quick measurements without the assistance of any tool or measuring device.
- Rhomberg Test - A suspect driver is told to lean his or her head back and hold this pose for thirty seconds. Someone who is under the influence will have difficulty in maintaining balance for a prolonged period of time when his or her normal perspective and line of vision is altered.
- Finger to Nose Test – The officer will have the driver fully extend their arms at their sides, close their eyes, and then touch the tip of their nose by bending at the elbow. Someone who is impaired will usually miss their nose completely and will sway.
- Other Tests – Additional tests may be requested to see if a driver is mentally alert, such as reciting the alphabet backwards.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) only officially recognizes the horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn and one leg stand as being sufficiently reliable field sobriety tests. Furthermore, the NHTSA has warned officers not to "pass" or "fail" a driver while administering and evaluating these tests, but rather simply record observations about the driver's individual performance. If the officer makes conclusive statements regarding a driver's passing or failing a particular test, that can be used to show the officer may be biased.
Bias may influence an officer's evaluation of test performance in Burbank. These tests cannot be recreated or verified at a later time, and many officers may be predisposed to believe that a suspect may be impaired.
Another problem with field sobriety tests is that a host of outside factors can influence how someone performs on the test. Things like road conditions, temperature, weather, lighting, footwear and clothing can affect a driver's ability to perform on these tests. In addition, the driver may be sick or tired which could affect how he or she performs.
If you have been charged with a DUI offense in Burbank, it is crucial that you speak with a knowledgeable and experienced Burbank DUI attorney as soon as possible. An effective DUI attorney in Burbank knows what to look for when evaluating an officer's observations on field sobriety testing. If the tests were not adequately administered, they may be thrown out. Burbank DUI Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who was previously assigned to prosecute cases at the Burbank Courthouse. As a result, Mr. Kraut is well known in Burbank as a tough litigator who fights hard for clients charged with DUI.
For more information about Burbank Field Sobriety Tests, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Burbank DUI Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 2600 West Olive Avenue, 5th Floor, Burbank, CA 91505. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 818-563-9810.