Hire us to reduce time and stress. Sign up by email. Appear through counsel under new rule CrR 3.4.
Get updates through our encrypted client portal.

Justia Lawyer Rating
AV Preeminent
Avvo Client's Choice Award 2018
Avvo Rating 10 - Top Attorney
BBB Business Accredited
2019 Champion of Justice
Expertise Best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Kent 2022

Challenging Field Sobriety Tests and DUIs in Tacoma WA

By James J. White 4/3/23

Challenging FSTsA Tacoma DUI Police Officer’s decision to arrest for DUI is often based on how a suspect performs on Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs). FSTs are a series of physical and cognitive tests that law enforcement officers use to determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These tests are typically administered during a traffic stop and include tasks such as standing on one leg, walking a straight line, and following a stimulus, like a pen or finger, with your eyes. While FSTs are commonly used to determine if someone is driving under the influence, they are not always accurate and can produce false positives. Despite their prolific use, no statutes or administrative codes regulate the administration of field sobriety tests.

One reason why FSTs may not be accurate is that they are subjective. The results of FSTs are often based on the observations and opinions of the law enforcement officer administering the tests. This means that the accuracy of the results can be influenced by the officer's personal biases, level of training, and experience. Additionally, the FSTs themselves are not standardized, meaning that there is no universal set of criteria for administering or interpreting the tests. As a result, the accuracy and reliability of FSTs can vary widely from case to case.

Another factor that can impact the accuracy of FSTs is the physical and mental condition of the person being tested. FSTs require a significant amount of physical coordination, balance, and cognitive function, which can be impaired by a variety of factors. For example, someone who has a medical condition that affects their balance or cognitive abilities may perform poorly on FSTs even if they are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Similarly, someone who is nervous or anxious during a traffic stop may also perform poorly on FSTs, even if they are not impaired.

Furthermore, FSTs can produce false positives in cases where a driver is not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For example, the "horizontal gaze nystagmus" test, which involves following a stimulus, like a pen or finger, with your eyes, is often used as an indicator of alcohol or drug impairment. However, nystagmus can also be caused by other factors, such as fatigue or certain medical conditions. As a result, a driver who performs poorly on the nystagmus test may be falsely accused of driving under the influence.

Another problem with FSTs is that they are often administered under stressful and distracting conditions. During a traffic stop, the driver may be nervous, frightened, or distracted by the presence of law enforcement officers, traffic, or other factors. These distractions and stressors can make it difficult for a driver to perform well on FSTs, even if they are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Finally, FSTs are often used in combination with other forms of evidence, such as Breathalyzer tests or blood tests. However, these tests are not always accurate either. Breathalyzer tests, for example, can produce false positives due to a variety of factors, such as mouth alcohol or the presence of interfering substances. Blood tests, while considered to be the most accurate way to determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC), can also produce inaccurate results due to mishandling, contamination, or improper analysis.

In conclusion, FSTs are not always accurate and can produce false positives in cases where a driver is not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The subjective nature of FSTs, combined with the physical and mental condition of the driver, the distracting and stressful conditions of a traffic stop, and the potential for false positives in other forms of evidence, can all impact the accuracy and reliability of FSTs. As a result, it is important for anyone facing DUI charges to work with an experienced Tacoma DUI defense attorney who can challenge the validity of FSTs and other forms of evidence in court.

Client Reviews
I was represented by James White and have been nothing but satisfied with the outcome. Jame is very efficient and eliminates much of the stress that the judicial system can place on an offender. I am very grateful to have such a great attorney and owe him my gratitude for helping me when times were rough. Not only is he professional, but he is also someone you can talk to on a personal level. I highly recommend James White and would undoubtedly use him again in the future. If you are in search of an attorney, do yourself a favor and have the law offices of Smith & White represent you. Mike D.
I contacted James after my charge for reckless endangerment, and right from the start he was informative and reassuring. James worked hard to get me the best possible outcome, and was always very quick to return a call or text. He was straightforward and honest with me about my case, explaining both the good and the bad in a way that was reassuring without being misleading. Overall, I highly recommend Smith and White to anyone who is looking for the most professional representation in their legal matters. Matthew B.
Attorney James White was a beacon of hope for me at a time when my options appeared limited and the likeness of a satisfactory resolution seemed close to nothing. Not only was he able to defend me in a specific sticky situation in which I hired him for, I felt as though he also went above and beyond in efforts to provide me with the best outcome possible. His calm and professional demeanor offered such a great assurance to myself and those I care about around me. I am completely grateful for his service and I most definitely recommend Mr. White. Leyasha J.
Derek Smith guided us through a troubling legal situation with absolute professionalism. This was my first experience with a trial situation and Mr. Smith was able to address all of my questions and concerns in a way that helped address some of the fear I had regarding the legal system. Mr. Smith was highly effective during the trial and the result ended up in our favor. Legal troubles are scary and it was great knowing we had a fantastic legal team on our side to help navigate the somewhat confusing situation. My wife and I emphatically recommend this law firm. Steve B.
Mr. Smith was wonderful to work with. He was professional, knowledgeable and effective!! He takes the time to listen, which is amazing and can be a hard quality to find! He is informative and straight forward, which I truly appreciate! He was quite helpful on another matter that I asked his advise on. Thank you!!! Melika