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What is the Standardized Field Sobriety Test?

With all of the technological advancements that have been made in the last 50 years, one might assume that law enforcement would long ago have retired the Standardized Field Sobriety Test. This has been in use throughout the country since the 1970s. While police have adopted many advancements into their work, the SFST is still a regular feature of a run-of-the-mill DUI stop.

The reasons for this are more complicated than one might at first think. Part of the reason for this low-tech approach to determining sobriety has to do with the law itself. While DUI laws vary from state to state, they generally use the standards of exceeding the legal blood alcohol content level for driving as well as the relative impairment of the driver.

This latter part is often up to the officer at the scene to judge, which is where the SFST becomes useful, if not entirely accurate. The SFST has three separate components -- the horizontal gaze nystagmus (a test that displays involuntary eye movement due to impairment), one-leg standing tests, and the walk-and-turn test. All of these are designed to test how impaired a specific person is.

These tests are intended to determine if a person is impaired, regardless of what their actual BAC may be. However, this is a somewhat misleading standard, because the legal limits for an acceptable BAC have lowered significantly since the tests were developed.

If you have been charged with a DUI, it is well worth the trouble to fight the charges. You may think that it is not a big deal, or that the cost of fighting a charge is too high to justify the results, but this is not thinking with your own future in mind.

Repeat DUI convictions may eventually result in a felony conviction, which can keep you from getting hired or being allowed to lease an apartment. It is an investment in your own future to fight DUI charges, and the representation of an experienced attorney is one of the best ways to make this investment. No one should have to pay for the rest of their lives because of a momentary lapse in judgment.

Source: AAA DUI Justice Link, "Standardized Field Sobriety Test," accessed Nov. 24, 2016

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