Defending Clients Subjected to Field Sobriety Tests

sobirety test in progressA field sobriety test is one of the most common ways that a police offer or prosecuting attorney will attempt to prove intoxication. Comprising several physical tasks, these tests assess a subject’s coordination, balance, eye movements, and ability to follow instruction. Unfortunately, field sobriety tests in greater Phoenix and across the country are notoriously difficult, leading many to suspect that these tests are an inaccurate measure of sobriety. There is no doubt that even sober people have a hard time with the test. Since all that is needed for a DUI conviction in Arizona is proof that someone was “impaired to the slightest degree,” the smallest mistakes on these tests can be unfairly used as proof that a person was driving drunk. Attorney James E. Novak has a detailed knowledge of the components of a field sobriety test, and can identify when the results of these tests are inaccurate. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

The Components of a Field Sobriety Test

The three primary parts of a field sobriety test are standard across the country, and police officers are expected to comply with the standards set by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. These three tests are:

1. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test – “Nystagmus” refers to the involuntary twitching of the eye that occurs for a variety of reasons, including the influence of drugs and alcohol. To administer this test, a police officer will hold a finger or a pen about a foot from the subject’s face and slowly move it back and forth while tracing the subject’s eye movements.

2. Walk and Turn – To perform this task, a subject must walk heel-to-toe down a straight line taking only 9 steps. He or she must do this with hands to the side and must count each step aloud. When the subject comes to the end of the line, he or she must turn around in a series of small steps and return to the other end of the line in 9 heel-to-toe steps.

3. One-leg Stand – A subject is asked to stand on one leg, with arms at the side and the other leg raised approximately 6 inches above the ground. While doing so, the subject must count upwards from 1,000 to 1,030, without swaying, setting the other foot down, hopping, or using the arms for balance.

In Arizona, the finger-to-nose test and the finger counting test are also permitted in a field sobriety test. However, because no national guidelines have been issued for these tests, they are not considered accurate and are rarely administered.

Challenging a Field Sobriety Test

Attorney James Novak is experienced in demonstrating the inaccuracies of field sobriety tests in a court of law. Common arguments include:

  • The police officer did not issue proper instruction when administering the test
  • The police officer administered the test on uneven ground or in unfavorable weather conditions
  • The subject had a physical handicap that inhibited his or her ability to take the test
  • The subject was nervous, which caused him or her to perform poorly

There are many other arguments as well, and James Novak’s ability to disprove field sobriety tests is one reason why he has such a long and impressive track record of criminal defense.

Contact James Novak

If you are facing a misdemeanor or felony DUI charge because of a failed field sobriety test, contact James E. Novak today. Attorneys are standing by 24 hours a day to answer your questions and schedule your consultation.

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