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Field Sobriety Tests in Prince George’s County DUI Cases

In Prince George’s County and throughout the rest of Maryland, field sobriety tests (FSTs) are used by law enforcement officers to attempt and show impairment. Below, a Prince George’s County DUI lawyer discusses what you need to know about the impact of these tests in court, and whether you have the right to refuse. For more specific information regarding your case, call today.

Administration of Field Sobriety Tests

If an officer stops you and asks you to step out of the vehicle, he is trying to substantiate some reasonable articulable suspicion that you have alcohol in your system. When the officer asks you to perform these standard field sobriety tests, the testing area has to be safe.

It cannot be in the middle of the road, on the dotted line down the center of the highway, or even blocking the right lane of the road where there may be a solid line. The officer will select a location that is safe, reasonably well lit, possibly by the lights of one or more officer’s vehicles and free of debris and ask you to imagine a straight line to walk. You have to be able to consistently make your steps and complete the test without being impeded by anything extraneous. Since the side of a road usually has debris, and the roadway itself has other cars passing by, those would be distractions that the officer should not require you to deal with when taking the test.

Refusing to Perform Field Sobriety Tests

Absolutely, you do not have to perform them.

Challenging Field Sobriety Tests in Court

The officer must explain and demonstrate each test to you beforehand. If the officer fails to do so properly, or if there are issues in their administration of the tests, their validity can challenged at trial. If the officer gives you the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test when you are still sitting in your vehicle, or doesn’t use any of these three tests and instead requires you to complete some random tests like reciting the alphabet from F to R and counting backwards from 33 to 17, and they don’t administer the core tests, there may be issues of fact which can be disputed at trial. These tests and how they are done is very important. While it is common for an officer not to do the HGN test, they usually do the Walk and Turn and the One Legged Stand or some combination of the two.

Weight of FSTs at Trial

The tests were designed and studied over a substantial period of time and are nationally sanctioned and standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). They deem these tests to be accepted as recognized testing and applied in all states as a way to determine the likelihood that you are under the influence.  Therefore, their weight is substantial at trial.