Standardized field sobriety testing is one of the most controversial issues related to drunk driving arrests. Field sobriety testing was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and is used by law enforcement officers to determine whether or not a motorist is driving under the influence of alcohol. Simply put, a field sobriety test is a simple task uses to assess an individual's level of alcohol impairment. For example:
HGN Testing (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus). HGN is an involuntary movement of the eye that occurs when you look to the side. However, alcohol impairment can exaggerate or cause HGN when the eye is not rotated at a strong peripheral angle. Typically, the HGN test is administered by moving an object (such as a pen or flashlight) across the subject's field of vision.
During the test, the officer will look for three indicators of impairment:
- Whether or not the eye can follow a moving object smoothly
- Whether or not the eye movement is distinguishable at maximum peripheral rotation
- Whether or not the jerking movement occurs within 45 degrees of the eye's center
"Walk and Turn" Testing. This test is a "divided attention" test. Generally speaking, this type of test is easy to perform if you are unimpaired. During the walk and turn test, an officer will ask the subject to take nine heel-to-toe steps, turn on one foot, and then return to his/her starting point. The subject can fail the test if he/she fails to walk heel-to-toe, steps outside of a straight line, turns too late, turns prematurely, takes the wrong number of steps, or uses his/her arms to maintain balance while walking.
The One Leg Stand. The one leg stand test is also used to assess the subject's ability to complete a task with divided attention. During the test, the subject is asked to balance on one foot for 30 seconds. If the subject exhibits two of the following characteristics during the test, he/she may be subject to arrest for impaired driving:
- Hopping to maintain balance
- Inability to maintain balance
- Using arms to maintain balance
How Accurate Are Field Sobriety Tests?
According to the NHTSA, walk and turn tests are 79% accurate, one leg stand tests are 83% accurate, and HGN tests are approximately 88% accurate. At the Law Offices of Howard J. Weintraub, we believe that suspected drunk drivers should never be arrested without a good reason. Statistically, field sobriety tests are correct – most of the time.
However, DUI defense leaves no room for error. Just because a test might suggest that a motorist was driving drunk doesn't mean that he/she actually was. In short, field sobriety tests do not actually prove that you were (or were not) intoxicated behind the wheel. If you were arrested because you failed a field sobriety test, contact our Atlanta DUI lawyer today.
Failing field sobriety test doesn't mean that you're guilty. However, the prosecution may try to use the test as evidence against your innocence. That's why you need an aggressive, dedicated, and skilled defense attorney to help you establish a strong case for your innocence. Many people assume that, if they fail a field sobriety test, they have to plead guilty in court.
In reality, failing a field sobriety test doesn't necessarily mean that you were intoxicated and can't really prove that you drove drunk. To learn more about your rights after a DUI arrest, call our office at (404) 907-1536. The sooner we hear from you, the faster our Atlanta DUI attorney can create an effective strategy to obtain the case results you need.