Understand the Field Sobriety Test

When an officer pulls someone over on suspicion of driving drunk, they are taught to use a standardized process to determine if they are intoxicated. Unfortunately, the field sobriety tests commonly used are not completely reliable indicators of whether or not you are legally intoxicated.

If you were pulled over and administered a field sobriety test, speak to an attorney from Boulahanis & Associates as soon as possible. You want to avoid a DUI conviction going on your record and your lawyer will be able to explain the possible defenses in your case.

Before an officer makes a DUI arrest, they will typically perform three field sobriety tests: the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), (indicate alcohol presence only, NOT impermanent), the Walk-and-Turn (WAT), and the One Leg Stand (OLS). Often times, they have already made up their mind about a suspect and this is being used to gain further evidence against those they are assessing.

The Purpose of Field Sobriety Tests

These tests have been assessed and are believed by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration to be valid in determining if a person is under the influence of alcohol. Not only are they used to determine if a person has been drinking but how much they have been affected by the amount they consumed.

There are three tests that are included and can be used alone or together. In addition to these tests, there are other things that officers may choose to do, including a chemical test which is believed to give a more accurate reading of the amount of alcohol in the blood stream. The field sobriety tests allow an officer to assess a number of areas and they are looking at more than you might initially expect.

Since alcohol can begin to alter the outward signs of a person, they will be looking at the behavior, balance and ability of a suspect. They will also review their ability to hear and carry out the instructions that are given to them. There different tests each focus on differing areas and it is believed that using them together can greatly increase their accuracy.

The HGN test stands for Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, which is what this test is assessing. This can show more physical signs of alcohol when the reaction of the eyes are affected. The Walk and Turn test will review a person's ability to follow instructions, balance and walk straight. The One Leg Stand will predominantly assess the balance of a person.

A Personalized Defense for Your Case

With over 30 years of experience practicing law, Boulahanis & Associates has the skill necessary to defend you against your charges. We make your case a priority at our firm, being sure to craft a defense that suits your legal needs and gives you the strongest chance of success in the courtroom.

We understand how important your charges are to you, and that they will be on your mind. We give all clients their attorney's cell phone number so that you can always reach us with your questions or concerns.

Helping to Challenge Field Sobriety Test Results

If the officer who pulled you over did not administer your field sobriety tests correctly, that can affect their validity in court. 

In order to give an HGN, an officer should ask you to stand, ask you to follow a certain object (pen, flashlight, etc.) with your eyes without moving your head and ask you if you understand before beginning. 

The officer should demonstrate how to do the WAT successfully, explain how and where to start and make sure you understand prior to proceeding.

For the OLS, the officer should have you raise your feet about six inches off the ground and keep both legs straight, again asking if you understand before starting the test.

There are many errors that can take place with these tests and you should not be fooled into believing that just because you failed these tests, it is an automatic conviction. 

The courts are often aware that there can be faults in these tests and that many innocent people do not pass them. One of the main mistakes is that an officer is not properly trained and their lack of understanding in the test causes a person to appear guilty.

It is important that the proper settings are used when administering a test and some people may look guilty because of nerves or their eyes may be influenced in the HGN test by oncoming traffic. 

Evidence should be inspected and investigations are key to finding any weak points that may exist. Chemical tests can also have errors occur when a device is not properly used or is not inspected as it should be.

If you think your field sobriety tests were given incorrectly, talk to our firm. We would be happy to help you in any way that we can. Call us today at 313-277-2550 and we can get started looking into the charges against you.