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Field Sobriety Tests in Pennsylvania

Any good Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney can tell you that, as in most states, Pennsylvania police officers and state troopers use certain tests to determine the sobriety of a driver they have pulled over. These tests are called field sobriety tests. They are given during traffic stops, right there at the scene. They are generally not given unless the officer has reason to believe, by your behavior or physical state, that you are under the influence. The purpose of the test is to help a cop decide if you are intoxicated, or impaired in any way. The police officer or state trooper making the traffic stop has discretionary power to give or not give field sobriety tests to a driver.

What are the Field Sobriety Tests Pennsylvania Uses?

Field sobriety tests help an officer more clearly see your physical condition. If you are stopped, and the officer smells alcohol on your breath or has observed you doing things that are associated with drinking and driving (like hugging the curb or weaving within your lane or into and out of your lane), you may be asked to complete one or more tests. Usually, there are three main field sobriety tests used in Pennsylvania. They are:

  • Walk a straight line
  • One-legged stand
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test
The Problems with Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests, as stated above, give police officers a picture of your physical condition, specifically your agility and balance, and your ability to follow more than one direction at a time.

The problem is, some of these tests are difficult even for sober people. A person with a processing difficulty may be stone cold sober but unable to complete more than one set of directions at a time. Someone with eye problems may not be able to follow a pen with only their eyes. And, an older person or a person with weak core muscles may not be able to walk in a straight line. A well-trained and experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney will know this and use this information to defend a client against DUI charges.


A breathalyzer test is a machine into which you blow air, or breath, from your lungs. The machine then measures your Blood Alcohol Concentration based on that breath. Many times, you will be arrested and taken to the police station to take a breathalyzer, because that’s generally where it is kept. Blood Alcohol Concentration, also called BAC, is measured in percents, and is the percent of alcohol that is found in your system. The legal limit in Pennsylvania is 0.08 percent. If your breathalyzer shows that percentage or higher, you will be charged with Driving Under the Influence. It’s important to remember that breathalyzer results are not always accurate, and the test is not always administered following proper protocols. Also, there is a short window of time in which the police can test using a breathalyzer. If they wait too long to test you after they arrest you, the results could be invalid.

The Results of Field Sobriety Tests

One of the reasons that you need the help of a DUI attorney with experience is that the cop who arrests you may not give you the specific details of your arrest. An experienced attorney will know the latest updates in DUI law and will have a good understanding of the system. He will begin immediately to reduce your charges or eliminate them altogether. He will go over the results of the field sobriety tests you were given, as well as breath and blood tests, to look for inconsistencies. He’ll look at the video of your arrest, if one was recorded, and develop the best defense he can, based on the details of your specific case.

Have you failed one or more field sobriety tests, and been charged with DUI? Then you will need a criminal defense lawyer experienced in defending DUI. The Logue Criminal Defense team has helped hundreds of clients defend themselves against DUI charges. Logue Law Group serves Pittsburgh, PA, West Virginia, and Ohio. Call today to schedule an initial consultation, free of charge, at 1-844-PITT-DUI or (412) 389-0805. We can also be contacted online.

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