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Field Sobriety Tests in Richland County – DUI

Facing a DUI arrest can be a stressful and confusing experience. Understanding the role of field sobriety tests (FSTs) in DUI arrests is crucial for anyone in Richland County, South Carolina. This blog will delve into what FSTs are, how they are conducted, their legal implications, and why hiring a skilled DUI attorney from Thompson and Hiller Criminal Defense can make a significant difference in your case.

What Are Field Sobriety Tests?

Definition and Purpose

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are a series of physical and cognitive exercises conducted by law enforcement officers to determine if a driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs. These tests are designed to assess a person’s balance, coordination, and ability to follow instructions, which can be impaired by alcohol consumption.

Common Field Sobriety Tests

The three most commonly used field sobriety tests are:

  1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
    • In this test, the officer asks the driver to follow a small object, such as a pen or flashlight, with their eyes. The officer looks for involuntary jerking of the eyes, which can indicate impairment.
  2. Walk and Turn (WAT)
    • The driver is instructed to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line, turn on one foot, and return in the same manner. The officer observes the driver’s ability to maintain balance and follow directions.
  3. One-Leg Stand (OLS)
    • The driver must stand on one leg while counting aloud until told to stop. The officer looks for signs of imbalance or difficulty in performing the task.

How Field Sobriety Tests Are Conducted in Richland County

Law Enforcement Protocols

In Richland County, law enforcement officers are trained to follow standardized procedures when conducting FSTs. These protocols are designed to ensure consistency and accuracy in evaluating a driver’s impairment. Officers must provide clear instructions and demonstrate each test before asking the driver to perform it.

Environmental and Physical Factors

The accuracy of FSTs can be influenced by various environmental and physical factors. Poor lighting, uneven surfaces, or adverse weather conditions can affect a driver’s performance. Additionally, physical conditions such as injuries, disabilities, or age can impact the results of the tests. It’s essential for officers to consider these factors when evaluating a driver’s performance and determining impairment.

Legal Implications of Field Sobriety Tests in South Carolina

Admissibility in Court

For FST results to be admissible in court, they must be conducted according to standardized procedures established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In South Carolina, the court will consider whether the tests were administered correctly and if the officer had probable cause to initiate the stop. Recent case laws and precedents in Richland County can influence how FST results are evaluated in court.

Challenging Field Sobriety Test Results

There are several common defenses used to challenge the accuracy and reliability of FST results:

  • Improper Administration: If the officer did not follow standardized procedures, the validity of the test results can be questioned.
  • Environmental Factors: Adverse conditions at the testing location can affect performance and provide grounds for challenging the results.
  • Medical Conditions: Pre-existing medical conditions, such as balance disorders or neurological issues, can impact test performance and be used as a defense.

Having a skilled DUI attorney is crucial in identifying and presenting these defenses effectively in court.

Common Questions and Answers

Can I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, drivers have the right to refuse field sobriety tests. However, refusal can have consequences, including the suspension of your driver’s license. It’s important to understand your rights and the potential repercussions of refusing an FST.

What Happens if I Fail a Field Sobriety Test?

Failing a field sobriety test can lead to further investigation and possible arrest for DUI. After failing an FST, the officer may administer a breathalyzer test or request a blood or urine sample to measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If you are arrested, the penalties can include fines, license suspension, mandatory alcohol education classes, and possible jail time. Understanding the legal process and potential outcomes can help you prepare for what lies ahead.

How Reliable Are Field Sobriety Tests?

The reliability of field sobriety tests has been a topic of debate. While FSTs are commonly used by law enforcement, their accuracy can be affected by various factors, including the officer’s training, environmental conditions, and the driver’s physical condition. Studies have shown that FSTs are not always accurate in determining impairment, leading to false positives or negatives. This highlights the importance of having a skilled attorney to challenge the validity of FST results in court.

Why You Need a Skilled DUI Attorney

Importance of Legal Representation

Having an experienced DUI attorney is crucial when facing a DUI charge. A skilled attorney can challenge the accuracy of FST results, identify procedural errors, and present strong defenses in court. They can also negotiate with prosecutors to potentially reduce charges or penalties, helping you avoid the most severe consequences of a DUI conviction.

Thompson and Hiller’s Approach

At Thompson and Hiller Criminal Defense, we are dedicated to providing top-notch legal representation for our clients in Richland County. Our team understands the complexities of DUI cases and the local court systems. We meticulously review every detail of your case to identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s evidence and build a robust defense strategy.


Understanding the role of field sobriety tests in DUI arrests is crucial for anyone facing such charges in Richland County, South Carolina. From legal fees to increased insurance premiums and long-term consequences, the financial and personal impact of a DUI conviction can be overwhelming. However, with the right legal representation, you can navigate these challenges more effectively.

At Thompson and Hiller Criminal Defense, we are committed to fighting for your rights and providing the best possible defense. Our team’s dedication and thorough understanding of South Carolina DUI laws make us the top choice for DUI defense in Richland County. If you or someone you know is facing a DUI charge, contact us today for a consultation.

For more information on South Carolina DUI laws and local procedures, visit the South Carolina Department of Public Safety and the South Carolina DMV.

Local Sources and References

Call to Action

If you are facing a DUI charge, don’t navigate this difficult time alone. Contact Thompson and Hiller Criminal Defense for a consultation today. Our experienced team is here to provide the support and defense you need. Reach out to us at our Columbia, SC office and let us help you protect your future.