Field Sobriety Tests

Should I take field sobriety tests?

The typical answer is no, you should politely decline to take these roadside tests.  There are three field sobriety tests standardized for use by law enforcement under National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) protocols.  Those three tests are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), Walk and Turn and One Leg Stand.

The HGN is a check of your eyes by law enforcement.  What occurs is that the officer uses a stimulus to see if your eyes can track equally and whether there is any involuntary jerking of your eyes going across a horizontal plane at certain intervals.  If the officer sees any jerking he/she will automatically conclude you are impaired.  In Washington officers may only state that jerking of the eyes indicates someone has consumed alcohol.  The fact of the matter is that 40 plus different things can cause nystagmus and the officers are only trained to notice one, HGN, not optikinetic, positional, rotational, vestibular, etc.  As a result there is much argument concerning HGN in DUI arrests and at jury trial.  HGN will not be present if you have been only smoking marijuana, although I have had some officers incorrectly conclude otherwise.  The NHTSA manual clearly indicates HGN is not present with THC.

The Walk and Turn test is used when investigating persons for DUI, whether alcohol or marijuana is suspected.  It is what it sounds like, you walk along a plane taking 9 steps up then 9 steps back.  The individual instructed to do a number of different things at once.  The individual is not told the clues the officer is looking for, they are just told to do the test. As you can imagine, most people fail this test because they don't know what to focus on because the officer doesn't tell them what clues they will be graded on.  Fair?  I think not.

The final test is the One Leg Stand.  It is also utilized in DUI investigations for alcohol or marijuana.  The individual is told to balance on one leg for approximately 30 seconds.  Again the individual is not told what the officer will be scoring them on.  The clues the offices is looking for is whether the DUI suspect sways at all, puts their foot down, hops or uses their arms for balance.  Again you can imagine most fail this test due to the subjective nature of the clues.

See my video below on what to expect if faced with a DUI stop and what tests would administered.If arrested for a Seattle DUI you need to call an experienced Seattle DUI Lawyer.


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