Field sobriety tests are a series of agility tests that have been standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These tests are used for detecting impairment in motorists. The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, one leg stand, and the walk and turn are the three major standardized and validated field sobriety tests.
It is important to understand the function of Mesa field sobriety tests in a driving under the influence (DUI) case. These tests are not foolproof, and their accuracy can often be contested in the case of a DUI charge. Speak with a knowledgeable DUI attorney at Grand Canyon Law Group to learn more.
There are three primary types of field sobriety tests that are validated by the NHTSA for use in determining a driver’s impairment. Although these tests are standardized, they are not always entirely accurate in detecting intoxication. A seasoned Mesa lawyer can assess the administration of a roadside sobriety test to ensure fairness and officer responsibility.
This test looks for certain eye behaviors or eye movements on the horizontal plane within a person’s eyes. Because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it slows down the small muscles that control the lateral movements of the eyes, which is what an administering officer is looking for during this test. When the officer sees at least four out of six possible cues of possible impairment, this indicates a high likelihood that the person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above 0.08. However, there are other things that can cause this movement, and the officers are not trained to distinguish the difference. In addition, it is an observation made by the officer that cannot usually be double checked by video, it is simply the officer’s word that they saw what they say they saw.
During the walk and turn test, the person is asked to put their arms down to their sides and take nine heel-to-toe steps in one direction on a straight line. Once they have taken the ninth step, they are asked to execute a specific turn, then turn around and take nine more steps back in the same direction where they came from.
The officer is looking for eight different cues of impairment, such as inability to follow instructions, stepping off the line, not touching heel to toe, raising their arms, or not doing the right turn. These cues would signify to the officer that the person may be under the influence. But almost no citizens are aware of all the little nit-picking things that can be used against them and often the officer is able to exaggerate the things they say they observe.
The one leg stand test is one in which the person is asked to stand on one leg, hold their other leg out in front of them, and keep it parallel to the ground while they put their arms down to their sides and count out loud. There are four cues of impairment that are supposedly visible during this test, including not following instructions and losing balance.
If field sobriety tests are not administered exactly as instructed by the NHTSA, they are not considered reliable. These tests are also not validated for people over 65 or individuals who are more than 50 pounds overweight. The truth is that these tests are often just used as stacked, exaggerated evidence in an otherwise weak DUI case.
During a court case for a DUI, the prosecution will often rely heavily on roadside sobriety tests and try to use them to sway the jury. However, there are many ways that a Mesa defense attorney can disprove the validity of a field sobriety test in court. An attorney may highlight that the tests are subjective or demonstrate that they were not administered properly. For example, defense may show that an individual’s weight is not nearly what the state believes it to be, making the test inaccurate. A lawyer will examine the unique facts of a case when determining the best defense for a DUI case.
Field sobriety tests are not the end-all-be-all for DUI cases. They are often misleading and inaccurate. If you have been arrested for a DUI because of the results of a roadside test, you have legal options. A dedicated lawyer can help you understand the validity of Mesa field sobriety tests and build a defense that highlights their inaccuracy.
At Grand Canyon Law Group, our former prosecutors turned defense attorneys have extensive experience with these types of cases and know exactly what to expect in court. One of our partners is even trained in the field sobriety tests. Let us put our experience to work for you– call today to schedule a free consultation.