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Top Myths in Utah DUI Cases - FST's

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST's or FST's)

DUI Defense LawyerThere are a variety f myths regarding DUI defense in Utah that pop up from time to time on the internet. These myths seem to continue circulating because there is often at least some degree of truth in them. Understanding these myths and the reality behind them can be an important step to determining the best defense strategy for an individual DUI case.

This page provides general information relating to two DUI myths involving field sobriety testing. If you are facing DUI or other criminal charges in Utah, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side is critical. Contact us today to see how our criminal defense team can help.

Myth #1 - If a police officer does not correctly demonstrate the field sobriety tests, I will win my DUI case.


FALSE - Field sobriety tests are only reliable when the are correctly demonstrated, correctly administered, and correctly interpreted by the police officer. The standardized field sobriety tests recognized by NHTSA require the officer to look for subtle clues in the performance of the subject driver. It may be something as simple as lifting your arms to retain balance, making a pivot while turning, or not touching your heel directly to your toe. If the officer does not correctly demonstrate how these tests are to be performed, the results of the test may be found to be invalid. But a jury can still convict even with invalid FST's.

At trial, courts will often defer to the finder of fact (usually a jury) to determine who much weight to give the results of the field sobriety tests rather than completely excluding them. However, in the context of a motion to suppress, the judge must determine whether the results of the field sobriety tests are so tainted by the officer's inadequate or incorrect instructions and demonstrations such that the results are not sufficiently reliable for purposes of determining probable cause to proceed further with the DUI investigation. In summary, while it is important that an officer correctly explain and demonstrate how field sobriety tests are to be performed, and an officer's failure to do so may significantly aid in defending against a DUI prosecution, incorrectly administered field sobriety tests are not an automatic win.

Myth #2 - If police fail to administer the field sobriety tests, I cannot be charged with DUI.


FALSE - Field sobriety testing is just one tool used by police officers to build a case against a suspected DUI driver. Most often, the field sobriety tests are used to establish probable cause to arrest a driver suspected of DUI or to establish the probable cause necessary to obtain a warrant for a blood or urine sample in order to further investigate a suspected DUI. But the necessary probable cause may be established through other evidence.

When a DUI case involves an accident where the driver suspected of DUI was injured, it is quite common that the driver is not in a physical condition that allows the standardized field sobriety tests to be administered. In such cases, the accident itself may provide some support for a DUI prosecution. Warrants for blood or urine can also sometimes be obtained without the administration of field sobriety tests. Blood, breath, or urine tests can provide evidence of a DUI.. A driving pattern (whether or not an accident occurs) can serve as evidence of a DUI. Statements or admissions by a driver can be introduced against the driver at trial. Physical evidence and officer observations may also be introduced by a prosecutor to support a charge of DUI. Field sobriety tests are often helpful in the process of prosecuting DUI cases, but they are not absolutely necessary.

Finding a DUI Attorney in Utah

Utah Criminal Defense LawyerField sobriety tests are often just one piece of a complex puzzle. A criminal conviction in the Utah court system can carry serious consequences. If you are facing prosecution for a DUI or other related drug or alcohol offenses, having the right attorney on your side can be critical to achieving the outcome you need. Contact us today to see how our criminal defense team can help you.


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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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