Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are a critical component of DUI (Driving Under the Influence) cases. These tests are conducted by law enforcement officers to assess a driver’s level of impairment due to alcohol or drugs.
What Are Field Sobriety Tests?
Field sobriety tests are a battery of physical and cognitive tests designed to gauge a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. These tests are typically administered roadside during a traffic stop when an officer suspects a driver may be under the influence.
Common Types Of Field Sobriety Tests
There are several standardized field sobriety tests commonly used by law enforcement agencies across the United States:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): This test involves tracking an object (usually a pen or flashlight) with the eyes to detect involuntary jerking movements, known as nystagmus, which can be an indicator of alcohol or drug impairment.
- Walk-and-Turn: In this test, the driver is asked to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn, and return in the same manner. Officers look for balance issues, improper counting, and failure to follow instructions.
- One-Leg Stand: The driver must stand on one leg while raising the other foot approximately six inches off the ground. The officer observes balance, swaying, hopping, or putting the foot down.
Challenges Associated With Field Sobriety Tests
While FSTs are commonly used in DUI cases, they are not foolproof. There are various factors that can influence a driver’s performance on these tests, including fatigue, nervousness, medical conditions, and even adverse weather conditions. A lawyer, like a DUI lawyer, knows that this subjectivity leaves room for challenges in court.
Defending Against FST Results
Experienced DUI defense attorneys understand the potential weaknesses associated with field sobriety tests and can employ various defense strategies:
Questioning Test Administration. Attorneys can scrutinize whether the tests were administered correctly, as improper administration can lead to inaccurate results.
Challenging Officer’s Observations. Defense attorneys can challenge the officer’s observations, questioning their qualifications and the accuracy of their assessment.
Medical and Physical Conditions. Medical conditions or physical impairments can significantly impact FST performance. Attorneys may present evidence of such conditions to challenge the validity of the tests.
Nystagmus and Other Factors. Attorneys can challenge the accuracy of the HGN test, questioning whether nystagmus is caused by factors other than impairment.
Lack of Standardization. Field sobriety tests must be conducted according to standardized procedures. Any deviations from these standards can be grounds for challenging the results.
Defense Against DUI Charges
Field sobriety tests are a crucial aspect of DUI cases, often serving as the basis for arrests and evidence in court. However, their reliability can be questionable, and challenges can arise in their administration and interpretation. Attorneys like those at Olivero Law, P.A. have the knowledge and expertise to assess the validity of field sobriety tests and build strong defenses for individuals facing DUI charges. If you find yourself in such a situation, it is essential to seek legal counsel to ensure your rights are protected and that you have the best possible defense strategy in place. Set up a consultation to learn about your rights now.