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Field Sobriety Tests
Why You Need a DUI Attorney
If you have been pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, the law enforcement officer will probably ask you to undergo a breathalyzer test or several field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests, also known as FST's, are more like roadside agility exercises than tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the federal agency that issues the protocols for DUI field testing, and they have created certain tests that are reliable enough to "accurately gage" whether an individual is too physically impaired to drive safely. The three standardized tests that law enforcement officers use include the Horizontal Nystagmus, the Walk and Turn and the One Leg Stand. Other less common tests include the Rhomberg Balance Test and the Finger to Nose test.
Horizontal Nystagmus Test
This test examines the ability of the eyes to track a moving object and is meant to expose the involuntary jerking or trembling of the eyeball that may be a sign that someone has consumed alcohol. The test involves the officer positioning an object 12-15 inches away from the driver's face, and then moving that object from side to side while watching the subject's eyes. The officer watches the suspect's eyes closely for an involuntary jerking closer to the outer edges of the eye, which may lead to an arrest of the suspect for DUI.
Walk and Turn Test
During this test, the officer will observe how well the suspect can follow directions and balance. The officer will instruct the suspect to take nine heel-to-toe steps on a real or imaginary line, pivot around, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back, all the while counting the steps aloud and keeping his/her arms down. The officer will judge the suspect's ability to complete these instructions while looking for eight clues that indicate impairment. The NHSTA reports that if a suspect displays two or more of these signs, there is a high chance that the individual has a BAC of .10% or greater.
One-Leg Stand Test
This field sobriety tests also assess an individual's ability to follow instructions. The officer will instruct the suspect to raise his/her foot approximately six inches off the ground and to hold that position while counting from 1001-1030, while looking down at his/her foot. If the suspect displays two or more of the signs that indicate impairment, he or she will probably be arrested for DUI.
Factors Affecting Field Sobriety Test Results
These tests are supposed to be standardized, but they have long been criticized for their subjectivity. Police officers often use these three tests and a number of other field sobriety tests to aid in their DUI investigations, but there are many external factors that can distort the accuracy of these tests. These tests are rarely administered in a way that follows the guidelines precisely, and many law enforcement officers do not have formal training on how to explain, monitor or score the field sobriety tests.
Some of the external factors that can affect one's performance on a field sobriety test include inclement weather, fatigue, poor lighting, unstable footwear, uneven surface conditions, nerves, vague instructions from the officer, sickness, injury, and one's weight and physical condition. It is for these reasons and more that you should contest your DUI if you were charged after failing one or more of these tests.
A skilled Sacramento criminal lawyer from Wise Law Group, PC can help you protect your rights by challenging the manner in which the tests were administered, taking into consideration the inherent bias of DUI officers, and considering that there are a number of innocent explanations that can explain your poor test performance. Call our firm today to learn more about fighting your DUI or felony DUI We are always prepared to stand up for you, and we have a proven record of success in these cases. Contact a Sacramento DUI attorney today to learn more!