What Happens if you Fail a Field Sobriety Test in Arizona?
We have all heard about them but hopefully, have not had to perform one. Field Sobriety Tests are used by police officers to help them make a determination of a person’s level of impairment. Most people do not fully understand exactly what happens during a Standard Field Sobriety Test, so we want to clear that up today. First, we want to give an example of what someone may be going through before they have to perform one of these tests.
The scenario is this – you have been at a work holiday party and had a few drinks over the course of about three hours. Before you left, you had one last drink to cap the night off and got in your car to drive home. You were responsible and are certain you have not had too much to drink. Unfortunately, you encounter a police checkpoint on the way to your house.
When you roll your window down, the officer asks for your license and registration while at the same time noticing the smell of alcohol.
That last drink that you just had.
The officer asks you to step out of your vehicle. Now your heart is pumping and your adrenaline is starting to flow. You think, “Am I going to get arrested because I have alcohol on my breath.”
When the officer asks you to submit to a Standard Field Sobriety Test, you agree because you are sure you can pass.
What Is A Field Sobriety Test?
When we talk about Standard Field Sobriety Testing (SFST), we are really talking about three tests that are used by police officers.
- The Horizontal Nystagmus (HGN) Eye Test has to do with examining the eyes of a person suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If someone has a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, then they have an involuntary jerking, bouncing, or rapid movement of their eyes when they gaze side to side. One problem with and HGN test is that there are many conditions that a person may have that also cause a nystagmus.
- The Walk-and-Turn Drill is a “divided attention” drill meant to do just that – divide your attention. An officer will give you a set of instructions informing you of a series of steps and turns to make. You have to take all of these instructions in then perform them all flawlessly. Guess what, most sober people cannot do this. Under the pressure of possibly being arrested and the likelihood that you have never heard the walk-and-turn instructions before, there is a good chance you will not perform it all correctly.
- The One Leg Stand is another “divided attention” test in which the officer will tell you to raise one foot six inches off the ground, don’t let it hit the ground, point your raised toe towards the ground, keep your arms by your side, keep your eyes on your raised foot, and then count from one to 30 in that position. Again, even a sober person would struggle with this.
What You Should Do Now
The bottom line is that a police officer can interpret the results of an SFST anyway they want to. If they suspect you are inebriated, they are going to be predisposed to think you will fail the tests. If you mess up in any way, they can use that as justification to request you take a breath or blood test.
If you find yourself in a situation like this, you need to secure a skilled and knowledgeable attorney to ensure your rights are looked after.
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