Field Sobriety Tests

Field Sobriety Tests

Atlanta DUI Lawyer

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted research and invented field sobriety tests for the purpose of determining whether a person is impaired or not.  These tests are supposed to be effective at showing whether a person is DUI or not.  However, there could be other possible explanations as to why drivers suspected of DUI do not perform these tests correctly, which have nothing to do with alcohol or drugs.

Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are voluntary and refusing to perform these tests will not suspend your license. However, the State can use your refusal to perform these tests against you in court.

It is routine for officers to ask drivers suspected of DUI to perform tests on the side of the road. There are three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST): 1) Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test; 2) Walk-and-Turn (WAT) test; and 3) One-Leg Stand (OLS) test.

These tests were designed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to give the officer information as to how impaired or less safe a driver is to operate their vehicle.

HGN Test

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is a natural reflex.  Whenever your eyes gaze to the side, it jerks naturally. When a person is sober, the eyes rotate at high peripheral angles.  However, when a person is intoxicated, their eyes rotate at lesser angles.  In the HGN test, the officer uses a pen or small flashlight to guide the driver’s eyes from side to side.  If the driver’s eyes cannot follow the object smoothly and it starts jerking at its highest deviation or within forty-five degrees of its center, then it shows the driver is likely impaired.  However, HGN might also indicate the driver consumed seizure medications, phencyclidine, a variety of inhalants, barbiturates, and other inhalants.

Walk-and-Turn Test

The WAT and OLS test focus on dividing your attention and are easily performed by sober people.  These tests require the driver to listen to and follow instructions while performing simple physical movements.  Intoxicated people have a difficult time with tasks requiring their attention to be divided between simple physical and mental exercises.

In the WAT test, the driver is told to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. After taking the steps, the driver must turn on one foot and return in the same manner in the opposite direction. If the driver can’t keep their balance while listening to the instructions, begins before the instructions are finished, stops while walking to regain balance, does not touch heel-to-toe, steps off the line, uses arms to balance, makes an improper turn, or takes an incorrect number of steps, then it shows the driver is likely impaired.

One-Leg Stand Test

In the OLS test, the driver is told to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands (One thousand-one, one thousand-two, etc.) until told to put the foot down. The officer times the subject for 30 seconds. The officer looks to see if the driver is swaying while balancing, using arms to balance, hopping to maintain balance, and putting their foot down. These signs show the driver is likely impaired.

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