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Examining Ohio Law: Part Three - Field Sobriety Tests

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests ("SFST") are a set of tests administered by law enforcement officials to individuals suspected of being intoxicated and are designed to elicit certain indicators, known as "clues, of impairment. SFST's were developed from research performed at the Southern California Research Institute and sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA"). The three SFST's developed by NHTSA, and most commonly used, are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, the Walk and Turn Test, and the One-Leg Stand Test.

Ohio Revised Code 4511.19(D)(4)(b) establishes the standards for admissibility of the results of SFST's in OVI/DUI cases. In order for SFST's to admitted as evidence, the State is required to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the tests were administered in "substantial compliance" with standards for any reliable, credible, and generally accepted test such as those developed by NHTSA.

The Ohio Supreme Court has addressed the meaning of "substantial compliance" only once, in the case State v. Burnside (2003), 100 Ohio St. 3d 152. in Burnside, the Court determined that minor errors, referred to as "de minimus", in the administration of SFST's are not substantial and will not render the results of said tests inadmissible.

The effectiveness of SFST's to determine impairment often depends on the law enforcement officer's adherence to the standardized procedures for test administration and scoring. NHTSA has published materials describing ideal conditions for the administration of SFST's, while also recognizing that ideal conditions do not always exist in the field. The effect of less-than-ideal conditions and errors in the administration SFST's correlates with the weight such evidence should be given.

The experienced attorneys of DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder have extensive experience challenging the admission and validity of SFST's in OVI/DUI cases. If you have been charged with OVI/DUI in Ohio, a knowledgeable Criminal Attorney from DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder may be able to help. For legal advice or information, contact, the attorneys at DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder today.