Field sobriety tests are standardized national tests for intoxication indicators, as created, tested, and approved by an organization called the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). What an individual does and how they act during the test will provide indicators for whether or not they are intoxicated. There are flaws with these tests, and as experienced Vienna DUI lawyers, we recommend that you exercise your right to refuse taking them.
The NHTSA put forth a list of how these tests need to be explained and administered, and if the officer administering the tests does not do so according to specified national standards, your DUI lawyer will be able to bring that into your defense.
Field sobriety testing usually consists of the three most common tests: The walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
The walk-and-turn test is a series of 10 steps that the officer has an individual perform on an invisible or real line, in which they have to walk in a straight line with both arms down at their side. A person cannot bring their arms above waist level. Then they are going to walk heel-toe and on the 10th step, are going to turn according to the officer’s instruction and walk back.
While doing this, the person being tested is asked to count out loud. This is what is called a divided attention test because it tests the ability to understand directions as well as balance, indicators that could prove that the individual is intoxicated.
The one legged-stand test is also a divided attention test. The officers are going to give instructions to stand on one leg while counting out loud for a certain number of seconds.
It tests the ability to count and the ability to stand with balance. The individual is not going to be able to move their arms above waist high level and will not be able to put their foot down or stand in any kind of a wobbly fashion.
The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is a test that is given by looking at the way somebody’s eyes respond to stimuli. In a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, an officer with a pen holds it at a certain angle and has the individual’s eyes track the pen as it moves back and forth. The officer is doing this to see if there is some kind of indicator, like a bounce in one eye, that is supposedly going to indicate that the person is intoxicated.
There are different defenses that can be brought up in the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. It is one of the weaker tests that can be given as part of the field sobriety tests, but it is a commonly given test.
These tests play a huge role in a DUI trial. Depending on the other evidence in a case, these tests can be the only indicators that a court has to determine that a person could have been under the influence at the time of driving.
What that means is that if performance on these tests is perfect and there is no other indicator that says an individual was under the influence as a driver, the court would not be able to prove that the person was driving while intoxicated. The results of field sobriety tests make a huge difference in whether or not a case goes to trial.