Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and Portable Breath Tests

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Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and Portable Breath Tests

In the State of Illinois, there are number of tests that a law enforcement officer may administer if they suspect a motorist to be intoxicated. First, an officer will administer the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs), and then the officer may request a driver take a Portable Breath Test (PBT).

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs)

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests were developed in the 1970s to assess the impairment of drivers through the administration of three physical tasks. These tests are the Walk and Turn (WAT), the One Legged Stand (OLS), and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN). The three tests combined are intended to give an officer a strong indication if a motorist is impaired, but these tests do not take into account motorists who may have physical conditions that could prevent them from completing the tasks proficiently.

A study found that all three tests performed together have an 88% chance of indicating that a driver is impaired. While this is a good indication, it is not perfect. And if a subject fails two out of the three tests, an officer will most likely ask them to submit to a Portable Breath Test.

Portable Breath Tests (PBTs)

PBTs can take place on the side of the road or at a police station after a subject is transported there. The important thing to note here is when an officer requests that a subject take a PBT, they are indeed asking the subject’s permission to administer the test. A motorist has a right to refuse to take this test. Additionally, an officer must read the “Warning to Motorist” explaining how the submitting to or refusing of the PBT will affect a motorist.

The PBT statute provides: “If a law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that a person is violating or has violated Section 11–501 or a similar provision of a local ordinance, the officer, prior to an arrest, may request the person to provide a sample of his or her breath for a preliminary breath screening test using a portable device approved by the Department of State Police. The person may refuse the test.”

This means that a Portable Breath Test is administered unlawfully if you are forced to take it, are not given the option to refuse it, or are not read the “Warning to Motorists” before it is administered. How these tests are administered and explained to a subject are critical to how the court sees a case.

If you are charged with a DUI in the State of Illinois, contact Richard at Fenbert & Associates, LLC for a free consultation.