DeKalb County Field Sobriety Tests

People who have been pulled over by an officer on the suspicion of driving under the influence may be subject to field sobriety tests. These tests are supposed to be able to let the officer know whether the person performing the test is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Read on to learn more about DeKalb County field sobriety tests and your rights. If you have been charged with a DUI and were asked to perform a field sobriety test, reach out to an experienced DUI lawyer.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Standardized field sobriety tests are outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The field sobriety tests are included in NHTSA’s standard procedures that a police officer should use to investigate someone they believe is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The standardized field sobriety tests consist of three tests:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
  • Walk And Turn (WAT)
  • One-Leg Stand (OLS)

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

The HGN test is a test for high blood alcohol content. In this test, the police officer checks an individual’s eyes for involuntary jerking that is evidence of the introduction of depressants like alcohol to the central nervous system. It is the only test of the three that has reached the level of scientific validity. The other field sobriety tests in DeKalb County are referred to as divided attention tasks.

Walk and Turn

The WAT test is a standardized field sobriety test where the officer administering the test must follow specific guidelines to ensure accurate test results. The officer instructs the driver to walk in a straight line via heel-to-toe steps with their hands by their sides, taking nine steps forward. The person turns and takes nine steps back heel-to-toe. While the individual is performing the test, the officer looks for clues of impairment such as difficulty balancing, failing to walk heel-to-toe, turning incorrectly, and using arms to balance.

One-Leg Stand

The OLS test is where an individual raises their leg about six inches from the ground keeping their foot parallel to the ground for 30 seconds. The police officer looks for clues such as swaying, putting their foot down, hopping, or using their arms for balance.

In each of the three tests, the police officer scores the individual based on the standardized scoring and indicates the number of specific clues they observed. There are six clues on the HGN, eight clues on the walk and turn, and four clues on the one-leg stand. An example of scoring is two out of four on the one-leg stand test, which means the officer observed two out of four clues when the person performed the test.

A police officer is taught that to make an arrest. They need to determine that they saw a minimum of two clues on the HGN, two clues on the WAT, and two clues on the OLS. The minimum number of clues for each tests are thresholds. If the officer sees the clues, they make the decision to arrest.

Do Field Sobriety Tests Need to be Administered in a Certain Way?

The field sobriety tests must be administered in a specific way each time. Most officers who administer the field sobriety tests regularly are effectively following the standardized training. However, when a police officer does not do DeKalb County field sobriety tests frequently, they might not follow their standardized training.

When a police officer does not follow their standardized training, that is an opportunity for a DUI lawyer to challenge the admissibility of the test. The lawyer may question the ability of the state to use the tests as evidence.

How Field Sobriety Tests Impact DUI Cases

The weight of the field sobriety tests in a DUI case is a totality of the circumstances. Any good officer will say they made a decision based on the totality of the circumstances, and the defense attorney starts with that notion. If no chemical test was done, the crux of the evidence is making the connection from someone who consumed alcohol to someone who is impaired by alcohol. The standardized field sobriety tests are the core of the DUI investigation or arrest. They are crucial in terms of the state’s ability to demonstrate impairment on the side of the road.

Call a DeKalb County Lawyer About Field Sobriety Tests and Your Rights

A person can refuse to perform field sobriety tests in DeKalb County under all circumstances. The police officer does not have to tell them, but the tests are voluntary. It is up to the driver whether or not they perform the tests.

To learn more about DeKalb County field sobriety tests, your rights, and how an attorney could help you, call today.


Hawkins Spizman

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