Field sobriety tests—or FSTs— are a battery of tests designed to assist law enforcement in determining whether or not an individual may be impaired by alcohol. FSTs were designed by Dr. Marceline Burns who field tested them in Colorado, California, New Mexico and Florida. The FSTs were lab tested in 1977, 1988 and 2003.
Though there are numerous types of FSTs, only three are recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (commonly referred to as the “pen test”), the Walk-and-Turn test, and the One-Leg Stand test.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is designed to look for any involuntary jerking of the eye. The premise behind the test is this: when alcohol works on your nervous system, it will affect your vision, which will result in a bouncing or jerking motion in your eyes when they look in a certain direction. During the HGN test, you will be asked to focus and then move at a certain speed and distance to help the officer determine if there is alcohol in your system.
The second test is the walk-and-turn, which is a divided attention test. You will be asked to walk in a straight line, heel-to-toe, taking nine steps, turning and returning nine steps with your hands at your side. The officer will be looking to see if you step off the line, raise your arms more than six inches above your body, if you are able to count an how successful you are at making a turn. You can even be scored down if your start too soon.
One-Leg Stand Test
The one-leg stand test is also a divided attention test. You must raise your foot up and keep your hands at your side out loud until you reach 30 or the officer stops. The officer will time this test and will be looking for you to put your foot down, hop or sway.
Are Field Sobriety Tests Accurate?
It is difficult for anyone to determine the accuracy of field sobriety tests. NHTSA claims that these tests are 80% accurate based off the fact that the HGN is considered accurate 77% of the time, the walk-and-turn is at 68% of the time and the one-leg-stand is 65% when a person’s blood alcohol content is .10. These are based on a .10 and above breath alcohol content.
NHTSA has released a list of external factors that can negatively affect the results of a field sobriety test. These factors include: being nervous, sick, or tired; bright lights coming from headlights of other cars, traffic lights or police strobe lights; wind, rain, and other adverse weather conditions; inner-ear disorders; age; weight; footwear; and general lack of coordination.
FSTs Are NOT Required
You should keep in mind that you are NOT legally required to take any field sobriety test. However, when the officers are asking, most times they will place it in a way that sounds like that it is a requirement. “Would you be able to take these tests and if you pass them be I’ll let you go?” This is not accurate because field sobriety tests are called pre-arrest screening and all it is helping police gather evidence. So by doing the test, you would be actually presenting evidence against yourself, which you’re not required to do by law.
If an officer asks you to submit to one, the best response is, “Am I required to take this test?” The correct answer is “no.” However, if the police officer still tries to persuade you into taking the test, politely state that you would like to speak to an attorney before deciding.
Effective DUI Defense in Oklahoma
If you submitted to a field sobriety test and were subsequently arrested for DUI, call the Hunsucker Legal Group in Oklahoma City. Our attorneys receive the same training as police officers in field sobriety testing and are able to skillfully cross-examine the officers as to these testing methods. Our goal is to know more about DUI enforcement and DUI law than any person in the courtroom, which allows us to provide you with the quality criminal defense you deserve.
Call 405-231-5600 to schedule a free, no-obligation case consultation with the attorneys of the Hunsucker Legal Group today.
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