If you are stopped under suspicion of driving under the influence, or if you have already been charged, it is important to understand your rights and how certain elements involved in the officer’s decision to stop or arrest you can impact your case. When working with clients who have been charged with DUI, our Reno attorneys at Fahrendorf, Viloria, Oliphant & Oster L.L.P. commonly receive questions regarding field sobriety tests – the tests performed by officers during DUI stops.
Many clients who took these tests and believed they “passed” ask us whether that means their case can be thrown out. Additionally, drivers who refused these tests have concerns about whether they should have taken them and whether their refusals can impact their case.
The most important thing to understand about field sobriety tests in Nevada is that they are not mandatory. You are not required by law to take these tests and have every right to refuse – in fact, you should. Why?
- FSTs are not reliable – A driver’s performance on field sobriety tests is not a reliable indicator of their impairment. While there are standardized tests, including the horizontal gaze nystagmus exam and the walk and turn test, field sobriety examinations are only intended to give officers more time to determine if a driver may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They do not establish a driver’s impairment in and of themselves. Because they can also be administered or interpreted improperly, it’s best to refuse them.
- Outside factors can impact results – Aside from being used improperly, sobriety tests and how drivers fare when performing them can be affected by outside factors. These can include certain medical conditions that may indicate impairment when you are not impaired, such as during the horizontal gaze nystagmus exam or when trying to walk in a straight line. Poor weather and certain roadway conditions can also impact results. These factors may lead an officer to suspect a driver is impaired when they are actually not.
- They do not carry much weight in DUI cases – Generally, field sobriety tests are not a reliable piece of evidence in DUI cases. A driver can’t be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt based on the results of their sobriety tests alone. Instead, officers and prosecutors will focus on chemical tests of breath, blood, or urine to determine if a driver was under the influence. Even though sobriety tests are not a central issue in most DUI cases, you give the government less evidence to use against you by refusing.
It is generally advised that you refuse field sobriety tests during a DUI stop, but if you did not and believed you passed, it’s important to understand that there are more effective defense strategies to focus on, such as determining whether the officer who stopped you had sufficient probable cause to do so and whether they had sufficient legal grounds to believe you were under the influence and arrest you for DUI. It is the responsibility of officers to not infringe upon your Constitutional rights and the government’s responsibility to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Because of this, there are many elements of a DUI case aside from sobriety tests that can be investigated and challenged in order to fight the allegations made against you.
At Fahrendorf, Viloria, Oliphant & Oster L.L.P., we understand that drivers have many questions after they have been charged with DUI, which is why we are accessible to local residents whenever they are in need. Our award-winning criminal defense attorneys also provide free consultations to anyone who has been arrested for DUI or other crimes in Reno and the surrounding areas of Nevada, including all types of misdemeanor and felony DUI charges.
Remember, time is an important factor after being charged with DUI, and we encourage you to reach out to our team as soon as you can. By speaking with one of our lawyers immediately after an arrest, you provide more time to investigate the circumstances surrounding your arrest and create a strong defense. You also have the opportunity to challenge your driver’s license suspension prior to the 15-day deadline. Our Reno DUI attorneys represent clients during both their criminal case and any matters involving their driving privileges with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.
Contact us today if you wish to discuss a DUI case during a free consultation.