Top 5 Tips How to Perform the DC DUI Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST’s): DON’T!

1. Don’t! You are under immense pressure and the average citizen under those circumstances will ‘fail’ to perform to optimum ability. Nervousness will wreak havoc with your coordination. Moreover, all too often, the officer is going to invariably find some “clue of impairment” to satisfy his suspicions resulting in a DUI arrest. It is a “lose lose” scenario.

2. Don’t! You are expected to take instructions and then execute those to perfection. Should you, for example, then stop during a particular test or ask a question for clarification, both are counted as clues and hence strikes against you in an invisible running tally. Even things you think might help such as taking extra steps, as opposed to the instructed nine (9), on the Walk and Turn will be counted against you – “took 12 steps”. Failed to follow instructions.

3. Don’t! You are being setup for failure. A lot of clients say, “I couldn’t do those tests sober” or “I couldn’t do them right now.” They’re right – and neither can you. Neither can the average police officer, apparently. I once had an officer get down from the witness stand to demonstrate for the court what he had had the client do and he ‘failed’ the tests.

4. Don’t! The tests are designed to collect evidence – you may not see the officer actually taking notes; however, he is keeping a record of exactly what you’re doing to make a report either after the completion of each test or at the conclusion of all three – to use against you in a DUI prosecution. Some DC police officers are actually equipped with body cameras+ and that footage will be introduced at a trial as evidence to convince a judge or jury as proof of impairment.

5. Don’t! You are NOT required to perform these tests and the officer cannot order, compel or force you to do so. It is always couched as a request with the officer earnestly hoping you’ll consent and perform the test. DON’T!

+Body cameras capturing the field sobriety tests in DC DUI cases are a relatively new phenomena having been introduced over the last year or so. The irony is, the video can truly hurt or help you. In my experience, when the government has provided the footage, it has proven damaging to the client. All too often, of course, except in one instance where my client was shown exhibiting perfect balance and normal speech, the ‘footage is unavailable’ or ‘no recording exist’. Ultimately, why provide the police the opportunity to record activity that could hurt you? They are recording it because they believe it will. The safe medium is to refuse. Someone once said: silence is often misinterpreted, but never misquoted. The same principle applies here. #Saynothing (more than necessary) AND #doNOTHING!

Here’s my card: If you, or someone you know, need help, give us a call. We will #help!


It is important to contact a Washington, DC DUI defense attorney if you are facing drunk-driving charges in the District of Columbia. A DUI matter can have potential devastating consequences and an experienced DUI defense lawyer can make all the difference. If you, or someone you know, need legal assistance with this or a similar matter, call and ask to speak to one of our experienced DC DUI trial lawyers today: 202.486.1186.

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