The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has worked to establish standardized sobriety testing nationwide and so far they have established three standardized field sobriety tests that are recognized in all 50 states. Each test challenges the driver in different ways in areas of balance and coordination and it is important to know what they look for if the authorities ever pull you over for drunk driving.
If you have already been arrested for drunk driving, contact a DWI defense lawyer in Fort Worth as soon as possible and take legal action today. Here are the three main tests that you will most likely encounter if you are being suspected of driving while under the influence.
The Walk & Turn Test
You have probably seen this test on TV or in several movies. For this test, the driver is asked to walk in a straight line and take nine steps from heel-to-toe, while looking down and keeping your arms at your sides. Once you have taken 9 steps they will ask you to pivot turn and walk nine steps back in the other direction. While you are walking, the authorities will be observing you very carefully and they see you stop or waver in any way they will deduct point from your total score.
The main things that they will be looking for are:
- If you start the test before they finish instructions
- If you're unable to maintain balance while being instructed
- If you stop walking at any point to regain balance
- If you step off of the straight line
- If you start using your arms to help you balance
- If you mess up on your pivot turn
- If you take too few or too many steps
Any driver that exhibits just two or three of these mistakes is considered to be above the legal limit and may be taken into custody. According the NHTSA, the Walk-and-Turn test has been found to be 79% accurate every time. Since there are so many different aspects to the test, an intoxicated individual will have a hard time remembering all of the different instructions. In many cases this test will stand up in a court of law, however an experienced Fort Worth DWI lawyer may be able to investigate your case and challenge whether or not there was probable cause for your arrest.
The One-Leg Stand Test
Similar to the Walk-and-Turn test, this test also challenges the individual to see if they can multitask and focus on several different things at once, while keeping their balance. For this test, the officer will ask you to stand with one foot at least six inches above the ground and proceed to count out loud upwards from one-thousand. They will time you and observe you for 30 seconds before you will be allowed to lower your foot.
The red flag indicators that they look for with this test are:
- If you sway while keeping your balance
- If you use your arms to help you balance
- If you hop on one foot to keep your balance
- If you put your foot down to regain your balance
So far, this test has been 83% accurate however, a competent criminal lawyer could search into your medical history and find out if there are any health factors that could have inhibited you from keeping your balance. Some examples would be if you ever sustained a severe neck or back injury or have an inner ear problem that throws off your equilibrium and makes balancing a near impossible task, even if you have not been drinking.
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test
You have probably come across this before where you have seen an officer moving a flashlight or pen in front of someone's face. The purpose of that is to measure and observe any involuntary shaking of the eyes when they reach the far sides of your peripheral vision. As the officer moves the object slowly from side to side, they will ask you to follow the object with your eyes and they will watch for any jerky movement.
Law enforcement officials will test both eyes going in both directions. A sober individual should be able to follow the object past 45 degrees smoothly, but if nystagmus is apparent, then you could be considered legally intoxicated. One thing that is typically forgotten however is that there are many other factors that can cause nystagmus to occur that have nothing to do with alcohol or intoxication.
If you want to challenge the results of your HGN or other field sobriety tests, contact a Fort Worth DWI lawyer at our firm today for your free case evaluation!
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