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ABC's Test

Drivers under investigation for a DUI in California usually must submit to a field sobriety test before being arrested. One test used by police is the ABC test. Many drivers believe that by "passing" the ABC test, they will avoid a drunk driving arrest, but that's not the case. California law enforcement officers including members of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), local police officers, or sheriff's deputies typically use the results to create probable cause for a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrest and to gather evidence for a criminal court and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) hearing. Because the odds are already stacked against the driver, it is crucial for anyone subjected to field sobriety test to consult with a California attorney who specializes in DUI defense.

Police officer administers the ABC test by instructing the driver to say or write the alphabet while standing with feet together and arms down. As the test progresses, the officer watches the driver for signs of intoxication, including beginning the test too soon, an inability to follow directions, slurred speech, or an inability to write or recite the alphabet correctly.

Maybe police and prosecutors think that this test is foolproof because everyone knows the ABCs, but the truth is that anyone would be nervous or worried after being forced from a car along a busy street or highway - it is extremely easy to make a mistake. The ABC test shouldn't even be called a test, because the driver is doomed to fail regardless of mental or physical condition.

Horizontal GazeField sobriety tests, like the ABC test, is designed to divide the driver's attention. By forcing the motorist to focus on both reciting or writing the alphabet and balancing with feet together and arms down, the test is intended to measure mental and physical impairment from alcohol intoxication. However, experts agree that mental impairment always takes place before physical impairment. Therefore, if the driver displays physical impairment but no mental impairment, the physical problems must stem from a source other than alcohol.

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This test is so unreliable as an indicator of mental and physical impairment that it is not even recognized as a standardized field sobriety test by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHSTA). It doesn't have an objective scoring system, and whether a driver "passes" or "fails" depends only on the officer's opinion. Because the ABC test is not recognized by the NHSTA, it carries less weight in court than standardized field sobriety tests. An experienced DUI attorney can demonstrate that the results could just as easily show that the driver was not impaired.

Many drivers fear that a poor performance on the ABCs or other field sobriety test means an automatic conviction, but that's simply not true. Ultimately, the results of field sobriety tests can be challenged in court. The best way to fight a California drunk driving charge is with the help of a California lawyer experienced in defending DUI charges.

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