Anne Arundel County Field Sobriety Tests
Standard field sobriety tests are a series of tests that have been set forth by the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) that are done in a fashion, based on extensive research and opinion, that shows that if the testing scores are high across the board it is more likely than not that you are under the influence or impaired by alcohol or a controlled substance and you should not be driving. These tests are used in the majority of DUI cases and as a result it is important that if you are pulled over you know what you to expect regarding these tests. If you have already been administered these tests, call and schedule a consultation with an Anne Arundel County DUI stops lawyer today.
Types of Field Sobriety Tests
There are three main field sobriety tests that are approved by the NHTSA and are typically used in DUI scenarios, these tests are the walk and turn test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, and the one leg stand test.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
This test involves following a pen, or another object, while keeping your head centered. Typically the object will be 12 to 15 inches from your face and involve the officer moving it back and forth and seeing if you can follow the pen without any issues. Studies have shown that there are 6 clues that you may be impaired and the most clues that are apparent the more likely it is that you are under the influence.
The only issues with this test are if you have something such as astigmatism in your eyes that causes it to flutter. For this reason this test may not be given as much credibility by some judges.
Walk and Turn Test
The walk and turn test is a divided attention test which means that the officer will be observing whether you have any trouble doing two things at the same time. Generally the officer will have you walk heel-to-toe for a certain amount of steps and then turn counter-clockwise and walk back. While this may make it seem as though the officer is checking to see if you can walk straight what they are actually testing is a variety of things including whether you can follow instructions.
One Legged Stand Test
The last test is the “One Legged Stand” test and that is where you pick your favorite foot, plant it on the ground, raise the other foot 6 inches in the air, and count to a certain number. Officers will do different types of styles of count, but what they are doing is simply observing you for 30 seconds ensuring that your count is correct and that you can hold you foot off the ground without swaying or falling.
As with the walk and turn test, this is also a divided attention test, which is a physical test with a cognitive side of counting. They are looking at this test to see if there is any substantive reason to believe that out of the four scoring points you are not scoring well. The higher the number, the more likely it is that you are under the influence or impaired. Then once you take all the four scores, there is a presumption that it will be greater than a 90% chance that you are under the influence or impaired by a substance.
How These Tests Are Administered
There is no wiggle room in how they tests are administered. When law enforcement is giving you one of these tests they must explain it to you and ask if you understand or need it to be explained again. Additionally sometimes the officer must demonstrate these tests and follow all the other NHTSA rules and regulations.
Weight of Field Sobriety Tests At Trial
If you perform very well on these tests, it may be enough to prove to the judge that there was no reason to have you taken into custody or held under any reason and that any breath or blood test submitted should be suppressed. These tests are very important because of the way that they are set up to do divided attention testing. If you are only getting 1 out of 8, 0 out of 6, or 1 out of 4, then it is more likely than not that you are not under the influence. If you score poorly, that means it is more likely than not that you are under the influence.
If you score very well, it is more likely than not that you are not under the influence and therefore you should not have been detained by law enforcement.
How a DUI Lawyer Can Challenge in Court
They can challenge the admissibility of these tests due to the inconsistency of instructions, inconsistency in the way that they were scored, or lack of understanding by the client with regards to a language difference. There are so many factors that come into play if these tests are not properly administered, properly explained, or properly demonstrated.