During a DUI arrest, law enforcement may rely on field sobriety tests to determine whether a person has been driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Because the results of field sobriety tests are often based on the arresting officer’s subjective observations, an experienced DUI defense attorney can help to challenge those results.
How are Field Sobriety Tests Conducted?
Generally, there are three common standardized field sobriety tests — one leg stand, walk and turn, and horizontal gaze nystagmus.
In the one leg stand test, the police will ask the driver to raise one leg and remain in that position for 30 seconds. If the driver cannot maintain his or her balance, the arresting officer may conclude the driver was imparied. The walk and turn test also evaluates the driver’s balancing by having him or her walk heel to toe along a straight line, turn and walk back. Finally, the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test involves the officer observing how the driver’s eyes to react to external stimuli (e.g. following a pen, flashlight).
It is worth noting that drivers have the right to refuse to participate in a field sobriety test, however, they can still be arrested based on other observations, such as the odor of alcohol on the driver or an open container in plain sight in the vehicle. In any event, it may be in the driver’s best interest to decline to perform these tests.
How can I challenge the results of a field sobriety test?
The fact that you have been charged with DUI based on the results of a field sobriety test does not mean that you will be convicted. These tests are usually administered under circumstances that increase the likelihood you will fail. Moreover, field sobriety tests are subject to human error, which means an adept DUI attorney can challenge them in a number of ways.
First, the training and experience of the arresting officer can be questioned because the results may be flawed if the test was not properly administered. In addition, field sobriety test results can be skewed if you have a physical condition that affects your mobility, equilibrium and balance, such as a disability, an ear infection or vision problems.
Finally, the arresting officer is required to provide you with proper instructions on performing the test. The police must also consider the circumstances under which the test is being administered such as the lighting, terrain, and weather conditions. A field sobriety test can be challenged if the police fail to provide proper instructions or the road is uneven or not well lit.
A DUI charge is a serious matter that can jeopardize your driving privileges and your freedom.
The best decision you can make if you have been charged with DUI based on the results of a field sobriety test is to consult an experienced DUI attorney.