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OVI-Field Sobriety Tests (FST's)

OVI-Field Sobriety Tests (FST's)

When an officer suspects you of an OVI, they will ask you to do Field Sobriety Tests, commonly referred to as FST's. There are three approved tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, Walk and Turn, and One Leg Stand.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is the involuntary jerking of a person's eye due to being impaired by alcohol. A person's eyes may involuntarily jerk due to medical issues and medications.

The officer should ask if you wear contacts or have had any head trauma recently.

Verbal Instructions:

  1. Stand with your feet together, hands down to your sides, and hold your head still.
  2. Follow the motion of the stimulus (typically a flashlight or a pen) with your eyes only.

The officer should then hold the stimulus approximately 12-15 inches from the driver's nose.

The officer will move the stimulus back and forth at least 14 times in front of the driver's face. The officer is checking for:

  • Equal tracking of eyes.
  • The Lack of Smooth Pursuit of each eye.
  • Distinct Nystagmus at Maximum.
  • Onset of Nystagmus prior to 45 degrees.

Walk and Turn Test

Verbal Instructions:

  1. Place your left foot on the line (real or imaginary). Officer should demonstrate.
  2. Place your right foot on the line ahead of the left foot, with heel of right foot against toe of left foot. Officer should demonstrate.
  3. Place your arms down at your sides. Officer should demonstrate.
  4. Maintain this position until I have completed the instructions. Do not start to walk until told to do so.
  5. Do you understand the instructions so far? Officer should make sure the driver indicates understanding.

Demonstrations and Instructions:

  1. When I tell you to start, take nine heel-to-toe steps, turn, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back. Officer should demonstrate 3 heel-to-toe steps.
  2. When you turn, keep the front foot on the line, and turn by taking a series of small steps with the other foot like this. Officer should demonstrate.
  3. While you are walking, keep your arms at your sides, watch your feet at all time, and count your steps out loud.
  4. Once you start walking, don't stop until you have completed the test.
  5. Do you understand the instructions? Officer should make sure driver understands.
  6. Begin, and count your first step from heel-to-toe position as ‘One.'

Walk and Turn Clues:

  • Cannot keep balance while listening to instructions.
  • Starts before instructions are finished.
  • Stops while walking.
  • Does not touch heel-to-toe (More than half of one inch).
  • Steps off the line (One foot is entirely off line).
  • Uses arms to balance (More than six inches from the side).
  • Improper Turn (Removes the front foot from the line while turning or does not follow instructions i.e. spins around or pivots).
  • Incorrect number of steps.

Law enforcement must identify two total clues associated with the walk and turn test. Officers can detect two of those clues while providing instructions. The remaining six clues must be detected during the walk and turn. There are many possible explanations for failing a walk and turn test while sober including age/weight, medical conditions, weather conditions, and improper footwear.

One Leg Stand

Verbal Instructions:

  1. Please stand with your feet together and your arms down at the sides, like this. Officer should demonstrate.
  2. Do not start to perform the test until I tell you to do so.
  3. Do you understand the instructions so far? Officer should make sure the driver indicates understanding.

Demonstration and Instructions:

  1. When I tell you to start, raise one leg, either leg, with the foot approximately six inches off the ground, keeping your raised foot parallel to the ground. Officer should demonstrate one leg stance.
  2. You must keep both legs straight, arms at your side.
  3. While holding that position, count out loud in the following manner: ‘one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three', until told to stop. Officer should demonstrate a count.
  4. Keep your arms at your sides at all times and keep watching the raised foot.
  5. Do you understand? Officer should make sure the driver indicates understanding.
  6. Go ahead and perform the test. If the driver puts their foot down, give instructions to pick the foot up again and continue counting from the point at which the foot touched the ground. If the driver counts very slowly, terminate the test after 30 seconds. (Officer should always time the 30 seconds). (Test should be discontinued after 30 seconds).

One Leg Stand Clues:

  • Sways while balancing
  • Uses arms for balance (Six inches or more from side)
  • Hopping
  • Puts foot down

Law enforcement must identify four total clues associated with the one leg stand test. Officers can detect two of those clues while providing instructions. The remaining two clues must be detected during the one leg stand. There are many possible explanations for failing a one leg stand test while sober including age/weight and medical conditions.

Additional Techniques

The NHTSA Manual does include "Additional Techniques" that officers can use. These techniques include asking the driver to recite part of the alphabet and counting down from a random number as well as finger tapping and counting at the same time.  

Fogt Law Can Help You

Attorney Fogt is certified in the NHTSA manual just like the police and has 104 hours of Continuing Legal Education classes on OVI alone. Attorney Fogt closely reviews the police report, the video of the FST's, and even visits the scene to provide the best representation he can for his clients. 

Attorney Fogt practices in Federal Court and all over the State of Ohio including, but not limited to Montgomery County, Greene County, Miami County, Warren County, Hamilton County, Clark County, Franklin County. Attorney Fogt also practices in Kettering, Miamisburg, Dayton, Xenia, Fairborn, Springboro, Clark, and Lebanon Municipal Courts as well as others. 

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Fogt Law Office is a BBB Accredited Lawyer in Dayton, OH

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