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Baltimore Field Sobriety Tests

The standard field sobriety tests are a specific set of tests put together by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They are simply a series of tests used to observe you and your cohesiveness.

These tests are done roadside by Baltimore law enforcement officials before a breath test is done. The three-part test occurs after a traffic stop, where there’s a suspicion that you may be, in some degree, under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. A person is absolutely allowed to refuse to participate in these tests. However, a police officer, prosecutors, and the courts may view this refusal in a negative light. Contact a Baltimore DUI lawyer to discuss how these tests impact and affect a DUI case in the state of Maryland.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

During a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmust Test, the officer will make an observation of your eyes as they move. There’s a wiggle, almost a jerking in the eye, that can be exaggerated when you are under the influence or impaired by alcohol. They’re looking for your ability to follow a moving object smoothly. Police officers are going to tell you not to move your head but follow with your eyes. What they’re watching is the consistency of movement as you follow a pen and if you are unable to do so, if there’s a distinctive kind of jerking in the eye or wiggle in the eye.

This test does not conclusively prove that someone is drunk. It just gives a Baltimore police officer probable cause to place someone under arrest for a DUI.

Walk and Turn Test

The purpose of the walk and turn test is to divide your attention, physically and cognitively. You’re going to take 9 steps, heel to toe, do a counter-clockwise turn, and take 9 steps, heel to toe, back. The line is generally an imaginary straight line and you’re going to walk it back and forth.

If you take too many steps, if you stop short, if you raise your arms, if you sway, Baltimore police officers will take note. The more clues you score while taking this test, the more likely that the percentage rises and it’s a higher percentage that you could be impaired or under the influence.

One Leg Stand Test

The One Leg Stand is a more simple test, where you’re asked to stand on one foot, whichever one you’re more comfortable standing on, and lifting the other one about 6 inches off the ground. You would then count for 30 seconds. Officers are looking to see if you’re swaying while you try to balance, use your arms, if you hop or put your foot down, or even if you raise your foot before you’re told to do so.

Administration of These Tests in Baltimore

Because these tests have standards set in place by the NHTSA, they must be done in a reasonably well-lit area on a roadway that’s free of debris, either in a parking lot or the side of the road. The officers will use their vehicle’s lights or lamps to illuminate the road. You have to be put in a place where the test would be fair. Sometimes, if the weather is bad, an officer may bring you to the closest police station and have you do the testing in that station itself. All standard field sobriety tests must be done and performed under the same national standards. They must be done in accordance with NHTSA. If they’re not, if the instructions were wrong, if the officer’s statements to you were wrong, then you certainly were not properly advised, and it’s likely that this officer did not have the requisite training to be administering these tests.

These tests are given a substantial amount of weight in court, which is why it is helpful to speak with a Baltimore DUI lawyer before appearing in court for a DUI charge.

Tests as Evidence in Baltimore DUI Cases

The reliability factor on this set of standardized tests, according to the government, is 90%, but that doesn’t explain why in 10% of the cases, it’s not indicative. The tests are biased. They are designed for failure. For example, it is human nature to respond to the various stimuli that is surrounding a person at any given moment in time. If these tests are being conducted on the side of a road as cars and lights pass by, it is reasonable that a person would be unable or have difficulty focusing on performing a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test of a One Leg Stand Test. There are various other factors that can make these field sobriety tests inaccurate or unreliable. Speak with a Baltimore DUI lawyer to further discuss reasons why they might be and to start building a defense for your case.