Understanding Standard Field Sobriety Test Can Help in DWI Defense
The nationwide crusade against impaired driving of all types continues to intensify in the U.S., and drivers are increasingly at risk of being pulled over and asked to undertake a field sobriety test. This is perhaps to be expected considering the seriousness of impaired driving, but knowing what to expect and what your rights are can help to avoid a potential DWI charge. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs continues to take a toll on lives and property, costing billions of dollars each year, as well as the loss of personal freedom and privacy. However, it should be noted that these tests have been challenged as scientifically unsound. The research behind their creation is highly questionable, and there are reasons a driver might fail them other than intoxication, such as a medical condition, incomplete directions, environmental conditions, and more.
Nevertheless, if a law enforcement officer has reason to suspect a driver of being impaired, they will normally administer one or more sobriety tests on the scene. However, these tests are not conclusive, and false positive results are not unknown.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are used by a police officer to establish probable cause to make an arrest for DWI. They are considered capable of fairly accurately assessing whether a driver is intoxicated, along with a handheld Breathalyzer. Three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests have been established by the National Highway Safety Administration for this purpose, and most police departments in the nation have adopted them.
• Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus – This test involves a driver being asked to follow an object, such as an ink pen, with only their eyes (no movement of the head or body) as it passes back and forth close to their face. The police officer is looking for jerky, erratic eye movements, or inability to follow the object without moving their head. This test is alleged to be 88% reliable as an indicator of a blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least .08.
• Walk and Turn – A driver will be asked to walk a straight line for 10 steps, from heel to toe, turn 180 degrees, and repeat back to where they started. Coordination and balance are being tested, and this test is supposed to be 79% reliable.
• One Leg Stand – This test requires a suspected drunk driver to stand on one leg while simultaneously counting by hundreds out loud for 30 seconds. Accuracy has been shown to be about 83%.
As stated above, it’s questionable whether these tests are as accurate as they are said to be. The science behind them is uncertain at best, and they have been successfully challenged in court. However, refusal to take these tests or a Breathalyzer can result in an arrest for DWI. Drivers should be aware of the nature and purpose of these tests if they are pulled over and asked to perform them.
If you have been arrested on suspicion of DWI or feel that you were unfairly subjected to field sobriety tests, contact an experienced impaired driving defense attorney immediately. The lawyers at Clancy & Clancy, Attorneys at Law have over 40 years of experience defending those charged with DWI, and believe in fully fighting charges instead of negotiating a plea bargain. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.