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What should you know about field sobriety tests?

Short of chemical test results of a motorist’s blood or breath and a roadside confession to driving under the influence the most important evidence a police officer has at their disposal to determine if an individual is driving under the influence of alcohol is Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST).  Developed by the Federal Government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Chiefs of Police Association, SFST are a standard battery of three roadside tests that measure the motorist’s ability to perform divided attention tasks.  Divided attention tasks are designed to divide an individual’s ability to perform physical and mental tasks at the same time.  Motorists are constantly using divided attention skills – calculating the speed of traffic around you, following distance between vehicles, judging if you can merge lanes – all while doing the physical task of driving.

In Pennsylvania, Courts have determined that two of the three tests in the SFST battery, the Walk & Turn test and the One Leg Stand test, are admissible as evidence against those accused of DUI.  The third test in the SFST battery, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, or HGN test, is still pending Court recognition in Pennsylvania and cannot be used as evidence against the accused at trial.

CAN I REFUSE SFST?

Yes, you have a Constitutional right to refuse consent to SFST testing and the police cannot compel you to perform them.  However, your refusal to consent to SFST testing can and will be used against you at trial and admitted by the prosecution as “consciousness of guilt evidence.”  In many cases the consciousness of guilt evidence can be as just as persuasive to a judge or jury as the SFST evidence.

WHAT DO I NEED TO DO IF I PERFORM SFST AND I’M ARRESTED FOR DUI?

Pennsylvania courts treat DUI offenses as serious criminal matters.  If you are arrested on suspicion of DUI, you need to seek legal counsel who is experienced in handling DUI matters, particularly how to defend against SFST evidence.  The attorneys of OWM Law stand ready to assist you with your DUI and criminal defense needs.

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