Field sobriety tests are assessments that are conducted following a DUI stop for the purpose of determining whether there is a probable cause to arrest an individual for driving under the influence. If you are facing a potential DUI charge, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible, preferably before answering any of the officer’s questions, because your answers could be used against you in court. An experienced attorney will guide and advise you through the process, helping you achieve the best outcome possible.
The three most common tests were developed by the National Highway Safety Transportation Board and are:
For each one these standardized tests, the officer is required to explain the test to the individual and demonstrate how the test is to be performed. For all three, there are specific things officers are trained to spot while the test is being conducted. These evaluations are typically used during a trial for two reasons:
These tests are only as valid as the court decides they are and this is based on whether they are administered properly and how the individual in each case performed.
The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is used to measure the presence of alcohol in a person’s system by having them follow a moving object and observing whether there is smooth visual tracking of that object or whether there is what is called Nystagmus, an involuntary jerking or bouncing of the eyes during the tracking of the object.
In the nine step walk and turn, the defendant is asked to walk in a straight line, heel to toe–counting out loud for nine steps–then turn at the end of those nine steps and walk back, still matching heel to toe and counting out loud. Throughout the test, the person’s arms must remain at their sides. What the police are looking for is whether the person can maintain their balance while properly following instructions. The officer will be checking for the following indications of impairment:
In a one legged stand, an individual is asked to lift one foot approximately six inches off the ground, while simultaneously counting out loud to 30 as they look directly at the lifted foot. Again, what the police are looking for is whether the person is able to maintain their balance while they are being instructed, whether they begin early, count properly, have to bring their arms up, fail and put the foot down.
A person is fully within the scope of their rights to refuse to perform a field sobriety test. There is no requirement that an individual cooperate with the police and in fact, an individual has an absolute right to not incriminate him- or herself. In general, individuals ought to refuse to participate because the only thing that can happen as the result of the test is that they will incriminate themselves.
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