DUI Field Sobriety Tests And How To Refuse Them In Arizona?
Standard Field Sobriety Tests in Arizona are part of the preliminary roadside tests that a police officer will carry out in order to decide if the driver is impaired or not. According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), there are three approved roadside tests which are referred to as Standard Field Sobriety Tests or SFTs and include:
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
- The Walk-and Turn test
- The One-Leg Stand
Apart from these, there is a heel-to-toe test, finger-to-nose test, alphabet recitation, fingers-to-thumb test, hand pat, as well as the modified position of attention, also called Rhomberg.
In the state of Arizona, most officers will use a set battery of six common tests. However, before an officer can carry out these tests, they must have the consent of the driver to administer them.
Under Arizona law, field sobriety tests are not mandatory, unlike the chemical test where refusal may lead to serious consequences. Although refusing FSTs in Arizona may have some consequences, most DUI attorneys agree that the driver should politely refuse the tests.
Why refuse Field Sobriety Tests in Arizona?
It is recommended to refuse to take the standard field sobriety tests because of the history of inaccuracies of the results as well as the inability for many people to pass them, regardless of the fact if they were impaired or not.
What happens in roadside Field Sobriety Tests?
Usually, if a driver is stopped on suspicion of impairment, the police officer will give them instructions for the test. They will administer the test, judge your performance based on how well you do them and then finally report on your performance. In case a driver fails the standard field sobriety tests in Arizona, that may be used as evidence against them in court.
Reliability of Standard Field Sobriety Tests
Accuracy of SFSTs has always been an issue. Since these tests are not always reliable, they should be admitted only as preliminary evidence against a suspect. They should not be solely used to convict someone of DUI.
For the SFSTs to be accurate, they must be instructed, administered, and reported in accordance with the NHSTA guidelines strictly. However, in reality, FSTs are rarely administered in accordance with the NHSTA rules and guidelines.
Guidelines for administering FSTs
According to NHSTA guidelines, field sobriety tests need to be conducted in the presence of appropriate testing conditions and equipment. Some of the factors that need to be considered include the following:
- Proper location and lighting
- Traffic and Noise at the location
- Weather and climate conditions
- Age and weight of the suspect
- Any medical conditions and physical impairments the driver may have
- Police officer should provide the instructions clearly
- If there was a language barrier between the suspect and the officer
- How the officer evaluated and reported the test
Moreover, any non-standard field sobriety tests should not be allowed as valid evidence in court against the defendant and may be suppressed.