Learning About Criminal Law Proceedings

Test Time: Understanding More About Field Sobriety Tests

Being arrested for a DUI is a devastating experience regardless of how it happened. Even if you are innocent of the charges, proving it can be difficult -- but with the help of an attorney, doing so is not impossible. There are many facets to a particular DUI case that can be challenged, so read on to learn a bit about the three main roadside tests and how these tests are far from the final say.

The Three Field Exercises

The three sobriety tests most often used were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the same agency that oversees the safety of our roads and vehicles. You have probably seen these tests performed on television and they are often the targets of ridicule and hilarity, but when it's you behind bars things may not seem so funny. All of the following tests must be performed to an exacting standard by certified law enforcement personnel.

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

There is a real ocular condition that affects eye movement called nystagmus, and this is where this test gets its name. To the casual bystander it appears to be a simple test where you follow an object, say a penlight, as it moves around at certain straight angles. There is a lot more going on, though: the officer must follow a particular pattern, hold at certain points and do a silent count at certain times, all the while observing how well the eyes of the suspect track properly without any jerkiness. Unfortunately, this test not only catches people who've been drinking too much but also those with certain vision impairments and neurological disorders.

The Walk and Turn

This is another test that looks deceptively simple but is not; it is not only balance that is being judged, but also the ability to follow directions. These directions are oral and often given quickly, so you might be forgiven if you don't fully understand what to do at first. The subject is placed at one end of a line -- it might a real line or an imaginary line, which is just another problem with this test. Then the subject is shown a specific placement of heel-to-toe walking; they must walk this way for about 10 steps or so, and then back again.

There are problems too numerous to mention with this test, since it relies on the subject having no issues with any extremity, their joints or their backs, no balance issues, no language or hearing barriers, and more. The ground is also not likely to be perfectly smooth at a roadside stop, and the lighting at night might only add to the confusing nature of the test.

The One Leg Stand

This test relies on a person who is able to stand on only one leg, and as with the previous tests there are many people who have issues with balance or other physical limitations that might keep them from performing this test, sober or not. Here, the subject is asked to lift one leg and count using a fairly complicated counting pattern.

Getting legal help to challenge the validity of these field sobriety tests is vital, so speak to a defense attorney today. You can contact companies like All Legal Solutions for more information.