Pasadena Field Sobriety Tests

field sobriety test in Pasadena


Part of the Pasadena DUI Process almost always involves an officer from the Pasadena Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, or one of the other law enforcement agencies operating in the Pasadena region administering a series of field sobriety tests to a driver they suspect may be under the influence of alcohol or another drug.

The purpose of the field sobriety tests is to measure a driver’s coordination and control of his or her physical capacities. None of the field sobriety tests are conclusive regarding intoxication; however poor performance on the tests may give an officer reason to believe the driver is intoxicated and would justify arrest and further chemical testing.

Standard field sobriety tests used in Pasadena include the following exercises:

  1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test – This test measures involuntary movements the eye makes when it reaches certain angles. The onset of these movements occurs at different angles for people who are intoxicated. The officer will have the suspected driver keep their head still and follow an object only with their eyes. If the officer notices a flutter motion at a specific angle, this may be an indication of intoxication. One of the problems with this test is that the officer’s observations would not show on a patrol vehicle camera or other device that could be verified independently later on. As a result, a driver’s performance on the test is completely subjective and relies on the word of the officer.
  2. Walk the Line Test – For this test a driver is asked to walk nine steps in one direction following a solid line on the road. The driver is then asked to turn and walk back. An officer is generally looking for impaired balance while the suspect walks, and whether or not the driver remembers to turn and take the correct number of steps.
  3. One Leg Stand Test – In this test, a driver is asked to raise his or her foot and hold it in the air for 30 seconds. Intoxicated drivers tend to wobble and have a great deal of trouble maintaining their balance during this test.
  4. Rhomberg Test - For this test, the driver is asked to tilt their head back and count to 30. Again, the officer is looking for indications that the driver cannot maintain his or her balance when requested to focus on a single task.
  5. Finger to Nose Test – The purpose of this test is to measure a driver’s coordination. Drivers are asked to close their eyes and extend their arms. They are then asked to touch the tip of the nose with a finger. Intoxicated drivers will often miss their nose when performing this test.
  6. Additional Tests – An officer may request other tests that show a driver’s mental alertness, such as reciting the alphabet in reverse.

Although law enforcement agencies in Pasadena use a variety of field sobriety tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) recognizes that only the walk and turn, one leg stand and horizontal gaze nystagmus test effectively provide an indication of whether a suspected driver is intoxicated. The NHTSA has specifically noted that an officer should not “pass” or “fail” a driver’s performance on a test, but rather should make and record observations of impairment. Any grading that is done may later be used to show bias in the officer.

These tests are completely subjective to the Pasadena law enforcement officers conducting them, and in many cases they are not recorded on video for later review. The officer may or may not be biased and could be looking for any minor wobble to justify arresting the suspect for driving under the influence.

Tests are often not completed under ideal or neutral conditions, and factors such as temperature, road conditions, the driver’s footwear, and the driver’s level of exhaustion may all affect a driver’s performance on field sobriety tests in Pasadena. People who already have balance and coordination issues may never be able to “pass” a field sobriety test.

If you have been arrested for or charged with a DUI offense in Pasadena, it is very important that you speak with a Pasadena DUI attorney right away. An effective DUI attorney may be able to challenge the accuracy of the field sobriety tests and highlight any bias the officer conducting the test may have shown. Pasadena DUI Attorney Michael Kraut is highly skilled at fighting all aspects of DUI arrests. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, including a rotation as a Senior Trial Prosecutor at the Pasadena Courthouse, Mr. Kraut is highly respected throughout Pasadena as a highly skilled litigator who possesses a deep knowledge of DUI law.

For more information about Pasadena Field Sobriety Tests, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Pasadena DUI Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 790 East Colorado Boulevard, 9th Floor, Pasadena, CA 91101. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 626-345-1899.

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