You’ve seen it a thousand times in movies and TV shows: the cop asking a suspect to stand on one leg and touch their nose, instructing someone to walk in a straight line heel to toe, requesting a driver to recite the alphabet backwards. But did you know there are only three legitimate field sobriety tests that can be used as evidence and that even these three are optional to take and generally inaccurate? That’s why you should always contact a skilled Vista DUI attorney as soon as possible when you have been charged with drunk driving.
The three standardized field sobriety tests that have been approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for on-the-field use by law enforcement are the walk and turn test, the one leg stand and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. All tests are intended to evaluate the suspect’s ability to follow directions, but each individual test measures additional factors as well.
The walk and turn test requires a suspect to walk heel to toe in a straight line and then turn and walk back. This test helps officers evaluate someone’s balance and their ability to remember and execute a simple set of instructions.
The one leg stand, as its name implies, requires the test subject to stand on one leg. While doing this, the suspect must then count out loud. This tests measures a person’s ability to balance while focusing on a simple activity.
The last test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus, sounds strange, but it merely requires a person to follow a pen or flashlight with his or her eyes. In this test, officers look to see if the person’s eyes move smoothly or erratically.
Other tests, including the nose-touch test and the ability to recite the alphabet backwards, have been proven to be scientifically inaccurate when evaluating a person’s intoxication levels.
Even the three accepted tests are still inaccurate though. Experts dispute the accuracy of these tests and seriously question the original government studies validating the field sobriety tests.
When you consider the fact that a test conducted at the side of the road, usually performed at night, is far from an ideal testing scenario, the accuracy of these tests drops significantly. To make matters worse, by the time an officer asks someone to take these tests, they have generally already decided that the suspect is intoxicated so the officer’s judgement is far from unbiased. Because these tests are so inaccurate, California does not require DUI suspects to take these tests, although police officers will rarely inform you that you have the right to abstain.
That’s why Vista DUI lawyers are able to challenge this evidence. Your attorney will have even more reason to challenge the evidence if he can show that the road was in poor condition, that there was heavy traffic, that you suffer from a medical condition, that you had improper footwear or any other reason why the test could not have been performed properly. Additionally, there is no objective standard for determining whether a person passes the field sobriety tests. It is the officer’s subjective determination as to whether a person passes, so an attorney can always challenge the results.
If you have been accused of drinking and driving and are worried that your field sobriety test results will be held against you, please call Vista DUI lawyer Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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