Field Sobriety Tests for Pennsylvania DUI

In Pennsylvania, standard field sobriety tests often provide a police officer with the opportunity to judge whether a person should be arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances under Pennsylvania law. The field sobriety test is an important mechanism for the police officer to establish probable cause for the DUI arrest. When the individual suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances refuses a chemical test, the field sobriety test may provide the officer with the most important evidence for proof of driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances.


Field Sobriety Tests in Montgomery County, PA

Generally, field sobriety tests are subjective, meaning the police officer observes your performance on the test and determines whether certain “errors” are made. Often, the officer will make field notes while tracking your performance on the field sobriety test with a scoring sheet. The test and the scoring allow the police officer to determine whether you should be arrested under 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3802 (the PA DUI Law). The DUI investigative field notes vary, but generally, the notes require the officer to observe the following statements by the driver, odors, speech, attitude, clothing, physical evidence, and other observations. In the absence of other compelling indications of alcohol intoxication, an individual who passes field tests issued in Pennsylvania should be given the benefit of the doubt and be allowed to proceed without an arrest. There is nothing in the law that requires an individual to submit to a field sobriety test; however, refusal to undergo the field sobriety test is likely to cause the individual to be arrested for driving under the influence, as it is usually an indication of a guilty state of mind. These factors should cause the individual to immediately consult with an experienced PA DUI attorney.


Common Field Sobriety used in Montgomery County, PA DUI cases

  • Walk and turn test: this test requires the individual to take nine steps along a line, walking heel-to-toe and counting each step aloud. After the ninth step, the individual must pivot, taking several small steps and keeping one foot on the line, and return in the same heel-to-toe fashion.
  • One leg stand test: this test requires the individual to hold one foot straight out about six inches off the ground, stare at the raised foot, and count from “one thousand one” to “one thousand thirty” which should take about 30 seconds.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN): this test measures the rapid, uncontrollable and involuntary oscillating movements of the eye. The individual is asked to follow a moving object, such as a pen, as it is passed across the individual’s field of vision.
  • Preliminary Breath Test (PBT): this is a hand held device that gives the officer a blood alcohol content reading.


Field Sobriety Test as Evidence in Montgomery County, PA DUI cases

Evidence of an individual’s performance on field sobriety tests are generally admissible in Pennsylvania courts, as is evidence that a motorist refused to submit to field testing. As with all evidence surrounding a DUI arrest, an experienced DUI attorney can ascertain whether the evidence was lawfully obtained and whether the evidence is sufficient for the prosecution to prove its case.


Montgomery County DUI Lawyer

Pennsylvania DUI cases often are won or lost based on the reliability of the evidence of the field sobriety tests. If you have been charged with a Pennsylvania DUI in Willow Grove, Norristown, Ambler or anywhere in Montgomery County or the other surrounding counties, contact the Martin Law Firm today for a free consultation to discuss the incident and the arrest at 215-646-3980.