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DUI Field Sobriety Tests

field-sobriety-tests-dui-murfreesboroChallenging DUI Field Sobriety Tests

If you are pulled over by a police officer and they suspect that you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she will probably administer a test to you called a “field sobriety test”. This test has a number of components, each testing a skill that would be impaired were the test-taker under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Field sobriety tests therefore task the taker with proving that their alertness, coordination, ability to follow instructions, and overall comprehension of your situation. If a driver completes these tasks successfully, that driver has proven to the officer that they are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, if the driver fails any of these tests, the officer then has cause to arrest that driver for driving under the influence.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

Among the numerous and diverse field sobriety tests that have been developed, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recognizes the following three:

  • Walk and Turn — for this test, the driver must taken nine steps directly forward in a straight line. The driver must walk ‘heel-to-toe’, meaning the driver must place the heel of one foot directly in front of the toe of the other in order to walk forward. The driver must then turn (in the specific fashion described by the administrator of the test) and walk back on the same straight line until the driver has arrived where they began. The driver is to be considered intoxicated if they lose balance, take the wrong number of steps, turn improperly, or fail to follow any of the instructions of the person administering the test.
  • One Leg Stand Test — For this test, the deriver must stand on one food with the other foot raised about fifteen centimeters, or six inches, above the ground. The driver must count to thirty (30) while maintaining this position. The driver is to be considered intoxicated if their arms are raised, if they hop, if they lose balance, if they stop before reaching a count of thirty (30), if their raised foot touches the ground, or if they fail to follow any other instructions.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test — For this test, the driver must gaze at a pen held in front of their line of vision. The driver is instructed to follow the movements of the pen with only their eyes, that is, without turning their head. The driver will be considered intoxicated if they are unable to follow the pen, if they do not follow the pen smoothly, or if they display symptoms of nystagmus (for instance, displaying a twitching of the eye).

Facts about Field Sobriety Testing

The tests described above are in widespread use throughout the state of Tennessee; however, these tests have often proved unreliable as a means of determine whether a driver is intoxicated or not. The problem is that many people cannot complete the tasks successfully even if they have had nothing to drink. Sometimes factors like the road on which the test is administered, or the weather, or the driver’s weakness due to hunger, or any other kind of factor can impact the test and produce an incorrect result. The tests work fine in completely controlled conditions, with an ideal participant; however, drivers are rarely pulled over inside of a laboratory. Furthermore, the same test results could be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the specific officer administering the test. The tests are therefore prone to mislead to officer and fail to properly indicate whether a driver is intoxicated.

How to Respond to a Failed DUI Test

Field Sobriety Tests can be unreliable in the ways described above. The arresting officer might administer the test improperly, or the results could be misinterpreted. Additionally, a test-taker might not be able to pass the test for reasons other than intoxication. If you or a loved one has been charged with DUI in Murfreesboro, Nashville, or the Middle Tennessee area, the first step toward fighting your case is hiring an experience and competent attorney with a proven track record defending DUI cases.

The DUI Lawyers at Turner Law Offices, P.C. Have been practicing DUI defense law for over twenty (20) years, and are committed to protecting all of your rights. Call Turner Law Offices, P.C. for a free initial consultation, and speak to a competent and experienced DUI lawyer today!

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