What are SFSTs and PBT?

When a person is stopped by law enforcement and the officer thinks that the driver may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the officer will ask the driver to perform SFSTs. The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) is a battery of three tests administered and evaluated in a standardized manner to obtain validated indicators of impairment and establish probable cause for arrest. These tests were developed as a result of research sponsored the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and conducted by the Southern California Research Institute. US Department of Transportation. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/alcohol/sfst/appendix_a.html.

The three tests are HORIZONTAL GAZE NYSTAGMUS (HGN), WALK & TURN, and ONE LEG STAND. These are typically followed by the PORTABLE BREATH TEST (PBT).

HGN is a test to see how the eyes track while watching an object as it moves across the line of vision, for example the officer’s pen. According to NHTSA, scientific evidence says that an impaired person’s eyes will jerk back and forth as they move from left to right or right to left.

THE WALK & TURN test measures the driver’s ability to follow instructions, walk to a certain point on the ground while touching each foot heel to toe and then turning around and returning in the same manner to the starting point. Impaired drivers may have balance issues, be unable to keep count out loud and not make physical contact with the heel to the toe of the other foot.

THE ONE-LEG STAND tests the same thing as the walk and turn, however, it is performed from a stationary position.

After the SFSTs the next test is the portable breath test, also referred to as the preliminary breath test.

PORTABLE BREATH TEST is a handheld device that the officer uses to test a driver’s alcohol level while onsite. The officer will hold the PBT device and have the driver blow into a “straw” or “tube”.

Although these tests have been developed through research, there still remain questions as to their accuracy. For these tests to be accurate or valid, they must be instructed and performed in a particular manner. Many factors can influence the results, such as the officer’s preconceived notion that the driver is under the influence or the nervousness of the person attempting the tests, as well as age and physical issues.

Do I have to perform the FSTs or blow into the PBT device? Continue reading

If your license to drive has been suspended in Washington State, you may be eligible to apply for a restricted license that would allow to drive legally under certain conditions.  There are two types of restricted licenses:  An Occupational Driver’s License (ODL) and an Ignition Interlock License (IIL). Which license you are eligible for depends on the reason that your license was suspended in the first place. A person can go to the Washington Department of Licensing website to determine which restricted license may be available for their particular situation.  http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/suspensions.html

One of the most common reasons that a person has his or her license suspended in Washington is because he or she was arrested for a DUI.  Washington State has a law that allows the department of licensing to suspend a person’s driver’s license BEFORE he or she has been convicted of DUI if he or she either refused the breath test or took the test and blew .08 or above.  In the case of a refusal, the suspension is for a minimum of one year, and in the case of a breath test of .08 or higher for a minimum of 90 days (longer if it is a 2nd or subsequent administrative DUI suspension).

A person facing an administrative suspension in Washington may be eligible to drive legally with an ignition interlock license (IIL).  A person with a valid IIL can drive any time or place as long as he or she has the ignition interlock device installed in the vehicle.  To obtain an IIL, a person must have SR22 insurance, have the device installed on his or her car and send the completed IIL application and fee to the department of licensing.  The instructions and application form can be found at the Washington Department of licensing website at http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/iil.html. Continue reading

Pierce County Criminal Court

This is where your arraignment will be held

Many people are terribly confused after being arrested for DUI in Washington State.  The confusion is understandable because a DUI arrest usually means that there are two separate legal proceeding started against the driver.  One of these legal proceedings is an administrative action started by the Department of Licensing (DOL).  The other legal proceeding is the criminal case where the State charges the person with a criminal offense in court.

The DOL administrative process doesn’t really vary from county to county.  The most important thing to remember about this proceeding is that the driver must affirmatively request a hearing within 20 days of the date of arrest or she has waived her right to a hearing.  If the driver does not request a hearing within that time period the suspension (minimum 90 days) will automatically go into effect 60 days after the date of arrest.  The administrative hearing process is beyond the scope of this article and will be discussed in a different blog post.

How fast the criminal case starts will depend on a number of factors.  These include the county of arrest, whether it is a breath case or a blood case, whether the person was booked into jail or not, and the person’s criminal record.  Many people arrested for DUI are confused because the arresting officer didn’t give them a ticket.  Under current law, the arresting officers do not usually issue a ticket or citation in the field for a DUI.  In a typical, first offense DUI arrest, the officer will usually arrest the person and take them down to the station for a breath test.  The officer will typically release the person after the breath test with a notice regarding the DOL hearing (see above).  After that, the officer will forward his police report to the prosecuting attorney’s office for the appropriate jurisdiction.   The prosecutor’s office will review the report and decide if the person should be charged with DUI or any other offenses.  Once the prosecutor’s office has decided to file a criminal charge against the driver, they will contact the court and the court will issue a summons requiring the driver/defendant to appear at an arraignment. Continue reading

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