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Field Sobriety Tests in Rockville DUI Cases

Field sobriety tests are typically administered to a person after they are pulled over and asked to step out of their vehicle. The officer determines that there is a basis to believe the person is under the influence or impaired by alcohol.

Field sobriety tests are used to determine a person’s motor skills and their level of impairment at the time they are given. A Rockville DUI attorney could argue the officer did not have a proper basis to arrest the client after a roadside field sobriety test was conducted. That may be the case when the driver performed well on the field sobriety test or if they performed poorly, but there was an explanation for their poor performance.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

The three types of standardized field sobriety tests include:

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

In the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the officer asks an individual to follow a light or some other stimulus with their eyes. The officer is looking for involuntary jerking in the eyes which might demonstrate the individual is under the influence or impaired by alcohol.

Walk and Turn

In the walk and turn test, the person takes several steps in one direction, turns around and take several steps back. The officer is looking to see if the individual is able to follow instructions and maintain their balance during the course of this test.

One-Leg Stand

In the one-leg stand test, a person is asked to keep one foot off the ground and keep the other stationary. In this test, the officer is trying to determine whether the individual is able to maintain their balance on one foot while counting out loud and keeping in mind the instructions during the course of the test. These kinds of tests help the officer determine where there is probable cause to place them under arrest for driving under the influence or impairment of alcohol.

Weight of Field Sobriety Tests At Trial

These tests are extremely important during a DUI trial, particularly to help the defense argue that probable cause does not exist in a particular case if the individual was placed under arrest. One of the strongest points which defense attorneys try to make is that their client was improperly arrested based on

1) Defects in how the field sobriety test was administered and

2) How the instructions were given, which led to problems in how their client performed on the test.

A defense attorney can make great inroads in defending his client by keeping the judge from determining that probable cause existed.  Similarly, by keeping a chemical breath test out of evidence, the attorney can remove what is probably the strongest piece of evidence in these cases from the trial.

Administration of Tests

There is a manual from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which lays out exactly how officers are supposed to instruct individuals on this test, the environment in which they must be conducted, and exactly what information the officer is supposed to record that indicates success or failure.

Refusing Field Sobriety Tests

There are no repercussions to refusing to perform field sobriety tests. A person is absolutely allowed to refuse to perform a field sobriety test, however, the court may draw an inference based on their refusal to perform the field sobriety tests. Such as they did so because they knew that they would perform poorly in them.

The refusal itself is something the court can take into consideration when determining whether the individual was under the influence, but it does not automatically count as a strike against the person.

A person could have refused to participate for a number of different reasons, for example, they were under the influence and thought they would fail or had a medical injury that kept them from performing.

If the attorney can demonstrate appropriate or legitimate reasons the accused did not take the test, she or he can argue that case should be dismissed completely because there was not probable cause for the initial arrest.