Frederick Field Sobriety Tests

Frederick field sobriety tests are used by local law enforcement officers to determine if there is reason to suspect impairment. If you fail the field sobriety tests, this creates probable cause for a blood alcohol concentration test and possibly an arrest for impaired driving.  Although Maryland has implied consent laws requiring you to submit to certain testing when police suspect impairment, field sobriety tests are not among the tests you must take in Frederick.

A Frederick DUI lawyer can help you to understand what the implications are of refusing a field sobriety test, or of taking the test and not passing.  Your attorney will help you to fight any DUI charges that result from a traffic stop, whether you took the field sobriety tests or not.

Field Sobriety Tests in Frederick

A variety of different field sobriety tests may be administered, however the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration explains that only three tests are considered “standardized.”  The NHTSA has conducted intensive research and has created a formal training program for law enforcement officers in conducting the three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs).

The tests, which NHTSA claims are administered “systematically” include:

  • The HGN test, or Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. HGN is a voluntary jerking that the eye does naturally as the eye gazes to the side. HGN is normal when looking at high peripheral angles, but is more pronounced and can occur at lower angles in an impaired person. When an officer asks a DUI suspect to follow an object, the officer is looking to see if the jerking occurs at lesser angles (within 45 degrees of looking straight) or if jerking is more distinct than normal.
  • The Walk and Turn. The walk-and-turn test involves a DUI suspect being asked to walk nine steps in a straight line, going heel-to-toe. The suspect is then asked to turn around and do the same. If the suspect steps off the line, can’t keep their balance, doesn’t actually touch his heel and toe, turns incorrectly, or does not walk the requested number of steps, these are all indicators of impairment.  Stopping while walking, using the arms to keep balanced, or starting the walk before instructions can also be indicators of impairment as well.
  • The One-Leg Stand Test. This test involves standing with one foot six inches above the ground for 30 seconds. Usually, the DUI suspect is asked to count. Signs of impairment include putting the foot down, difficulty staying balanced, swaying, and using the arms to stay balanced.

While NHTSA claims these tests are “systematic,” accurate, and effective, the reality is they are quite subjective. There are also lots of reasons why a person would fail a field sobriety test even when not impaired, such as nerves and lack of coordination.

Field Sobriety Tests and Your Rights

Maryland’s implied consent law is found in Transportation Code Section 16-205.1. Under the law, a person who drives in Maryland has given consent to submit to a test to determine his blood alcohol concentration, if there is reason to suspect impairment.  However, this implied consent law requires a driver to take an official scientific test, like a breath or blood test.  It does not require a defendant to submit to a field test.

You can and should consider declining to take a field test, both because the testing is unreliable and because it can just produce more evidence for an officer to use to claim there was reason to believe you were impaired.  If you are subsequently faced with a license suspension for your refusal to submit to a BAC test and/or if you are arrested for DUI, you should call a lawyer to fight the charges and possible penalties and to try and help you keep your license.

Getting Legal Help

A DUI lawyer in Frederick is experienced with cases where defendants have refused field tests, as well as in cases where officers claim such tests were taken and failed. Contact an attorney for help no matter what your situation is if you are being accused of breaking the laws related to impaired driving so you will have a legal advocate on your side to fight for you.

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