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Together, Our Attorneys’ Combined Strengths Make Them a Formidable Defense Team for Clients Throughout Indiana

What is a field sobriety test?

On Behalf of | Mar 15, 2024 | Drunk Driving

When police officers see signs that a driver is impaired, they’ll likely conduct a traffic stop. A primary purpose of this stop is to determine what’s going on with the driver. If an officer has reason to believe the driver is impaired, they may ask the driver to take a field sobriety test.

Field sobriety tests can potentially help to assess a driver’s cognitive abilities and physical capabilities. Drivers need to understand that these tests are designed to gauge coordination, balance and the ability to perform tasks that require divided attention. These tests are meant to assess the skills needed for safe driving, but they aren’t always accurate for a variety of reasons.

Standardized field sobriety tests

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) endorsed three field sobriety tests to ensure consistency and reliability in their administration and interpretation. These are the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test.

The HGN test involves following an object with the eyes to detect involuntary jerking, which can be a sign of intoxication. The walk-and-turn and one-leg stand tests assess a person’s ability to complete physical tasks while following specific instructions, testing balance, coordination, and the ability to divide attention.

Performing poorly on these tests can lead to further investigation. This may include breathalyzer tests, and potentially, an arrest for DUI.

Challenging a field sobriety test

Field sobriety test results are not infallible and can potentially be challenged in court. Various factors can affect a person’s performance on these tests, including medical conditions, injuries, nervousness or even poor lighting conditions.

A defense strategy can question the administration and interpretation of the tests, including the officer’s training and compliance with standardized procedures. Additionally, evidence such as dashcam or bodycam footage can be reviewed to challenge the officer’s conclusions.

It’s crucial for individuals facing DUI charges based on field sobriety tests to understand their rights and the potential for these results to be contested. This could become a critical point in their defense strategy, but only if the situation is handled effectively. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to get started.