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What Do the Field Sobriety Tests Entail?

The Walk and Turn test is designed so that the officer can test the person’s balance and test their ability to follow instructions. The officer will ask the person to stand with one foot in front of the other with their heel touching their toe for about 30 seconds while the officer gives instructions, which can be hard in and of itself because the person doesn’t realize that the test has already started and that they would have to keep their balance even then. The officer would then tell them to take 9 steps, 1 foot in front of the other with toes touching heels every step of the way while they keep their hands to their sides and look straight ahead.

After nine steps, the person would then have to pivot and turn and walk back along the line exactly the same way. One trick that officers use is that they don’t really tell the person went to begin step one, so they don’t often take the right number of steps, which is something the officer will make note of, along with every time the person steps off the line or doesn’t touch heel to toe. All of this will be used in court against the person.

What Does The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test Entail?

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test measures the involuntary jerking of the eye. A normal person has nystagmus on the outer edges of their vision, so their eyes well jerk a little while looking straight ahead and seeing things in their peripheral vision. If a person is intoxicated, the nystagmus is much more pronounced and starts earlier, with the eyes not only jerking left and right but also up and down.

The officer will use the observations he makes during the HGN test to determine whether or not the person had exaggerated nystagmus to the point that he could determine that the person was intoxicated. The problem is many other things other than alcohol can affect the nystagmus, including illness, fatigue, I head injury or many other medical conditions, and there is no way for an officer to be able to distinguish between a medical condition or intoxication, since he is not a medical professional and can perform a proper examination.

That is why, in many cases, the courts won’t allow the results of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test into evidence. That said, it’s not always the case; recently, within the last couple of months I have had three different DWI cases in which they sought to put in the HGN test and in one case the court did allow it over my objection.

The test is performed by holding an object, usually a pen or something similar in front of a person’s eye, while asking them to not turn their head and keep their eye on the object. As the person looked straight ahead the officer moves the object side to side. The officer will be looking for two things; if the person moves their head, they’re failing to follow instructions, and if they follow instructions, the officer will be looking to see if their eyes jerk.

What Does One Leg Stand Test Entail?

The One Leg Stand is one of the three National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) standardized tests. In order to perform on this test the person has to be wearing normal shoes on the flat level ground without anything underfoot such as rocks or gravel. While standing on one leg, they list the other foot 6 inches off the ground and hold the foot in that position, all while keeping their hands at their sides in their eyes looking down at their foot, while they start counting.

While the person is counting, so is the officer, who will stop when he gets to 30, even if the person counted faster and got there before he did. The officer will be testing the person’s balance and their ability to follow instructions, and the test is not always considered reliable because the person isn’t always ready when the officer decides to start the test and also because there are many other factors that can affect the test other than drugs or alcohol, such as age, fatigue or physical problems such as an injury.

This is why it is very important to get a lawyer to fight these things; quite often a lawyer can show that the police officer did not follow proper procedures or demonstrate that not enough cues exhibited and there is no reason to even bring up the test.

For more information on Standard Field Sobriety Tests, a free initial consultation is your best next step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (703) 691- 4366 today.

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