If you’ve ever had to participate in Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) on the side of the highway, in the dark, at night, you know some are difficult to accomplish even if you’re sober. Did you know that this Roadside Olympic event is also optional? An officer cannot require you to perform these tests. More often than not, the cop that pulled you over already has a biased opinion of your sobriety level based on the infraction you were stopped for. FSTs only add to an officer’s suspicions about your level of intoxication. Gilbert DUI attorney Charlie Naegle discusses some of the standard Field Sobriety Tests police officers use and how to respectfully decline such procedures.
The Standard Field Sobriety Tests
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): Officers perform this test by holding an object (such as a pen or a finger) about one foot in front of the driver’s face. As the officer moves the object from side to side, the driver must watch it as it moves. The officer is testing for involuntary jerking eye movements called nystagmus. The higher a person’s blood alcohol content, the more drastic their eye movements become.
Police undergo training to estimate the approximate BAC percentage based on the amount of nystagmus present in a person’s vision. While this test is viewed as the “most accurate” of the standard FSTs, police officers are not ophthalmologists. These test results alone can give biased, inconclusive, and inaccurate evidence towards a person’s actual BAC level. Declining to participate in such a test will give you an advantage that Gilbert DUI attorney Charlie Naegle can work with to benefit your case.
One-Leg Stand: In this test, an officer will demonstrate and explain the task, then ask the driver to perform the same task. The driver must stand with their feet together and arms at their sides, then lift either leg at least 6 inches off the ground, while simultaneously counting out loud from 1,000 to 1,030. The driver must count by saying, “One thousand and one, one thousand and two…” and so on, each time.
Officers watch for one’s ability to maintain balance. Even when the test is properly administered on a hard, flat, and dry surface, it can be difficult to perform for elderly or overweight individuals. If an officer administers the test correctly, the driver should be given an opportunity to ask clarifying questions. However, being interrogated by a cop can often cause people to nervously comply rather than confidently clarify instruction.
Walk and Turn: Drivers will be asked to take nine small steps in a straight line. The forward foot’s heel must touch the back foot’s toes in each step. Then, they must turn around, and complete the same test in the other direction. The driver must keep their eyes on their feet and their arms at their sides the entire time.
If a person begins before being asked to do so, the officer will view that as a sign of intoxication. If the driver does not touch heel to toe, steps off the straight line, uses their arms to balance, or turns improperly, an officer may conclude that the driver is driving under the influence.
Say “No thank you, officer.”
Once an officer has asked you to step out of the vehicle, they have usually already decided if they are going to make an arrest. Submitting to the Field Sobriety Tests at this point will only further their biased conviction that you are too inebriated to drive. An officer cannot suspend your license for politely declining to participate in the Roadside Olympics (though he can do so for refusing a breath test). Even if you are arrested for DUI, declining participation in these tests will prevent further incrimination and eliminate biased evidence from being used against you in court.
Contact Gilbert DUI attorney Charlie Naegle today.
Whether you participated in the FSTs or chose to decline them, Charlie Naegle will fight to protect your freedom and lessen your sentence. Call Naegle & Crider Criminal Defense Attorneys today at (480) 378-9000 for your free consultation.