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Field Sobriety Tests in Salisbury DUI Stops

Field sobriety tests are tests that were created for the purpose of determining if a driver’s coordination has been affected by alcohol. When a defendant has been charged with a DUI or a DWI, the state has to produce evidence that proves that a person’s normal coordination is impacted by alcohol.

Standardized field sobriety tests were created to look for impairment in coordination. These are divided attention tests, meaning they require the driver to be able to listen and focus on the verbal instructions from the police officer, and also requires the driver to perform physical tasks that will test that driver’s coordination. These tests can be given a lot of weight in court, depending on how well they were administered by the officer. Below, is information on the various types of field sobriety tests typically administered. To learn more or find out how the taking a field sobriety test could impact your DUI case call and schedule a consultation with a Salisbury DUI lawyer today.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test is designed to test the driver’s eyes. Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eyes, and consumption of alcohol can cause what’s called horizontal Nystagmus. Typically, for someone who has not consumed any alcohol, their eyes should track in a very smooth and fluid manner like a marble rolling on a glass surface.

However, once a person has consumed alcohol up to a certain point, the movement of the eye will cease to be smooth and will instead become very jerky and erratic. For this reason, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test is looking for that involuntary jerking of the eyes that’s done by the officer using some point of reference. Typically, it will be the tip of the pen and the officer will move that pen while advising the defendant that the he must keep his head straight and follow the pen using only his eyes.

The officer will then move the tip of his pen farther and farther out to the edges of the driver’s vision in order to watch the eyes as its tracking the pen. At this point, the officer is looking for that involuntary jerking of the eye which would be an indication that the driver had consumed alcohol.

An experienced DUI lawyer is going to know what Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is and is also going to know that Nystagmus can actually be caused by a number of things including if someone has previously suffered some sort of close head injury and other medical explanations for why a driver might have Nystagmus.

Walk and Turn Test

The nine step walk-and-turn test is a test that an officer is going to conduct for purposes of observing whether or not the driver can follow the verbal instructions given. The officer will also be looking to see if the driver’s coordination is impaired and the driver is unable to physically perform the test as it is explained and demonstrated by the police officer.

There are many, many portions to this actual test. The first phase of this test is the officer placing the driver in a very specific position and giving the driver instructions about how to perform the test.

The driver will be asked to put his right foot in front of his left foot with the heel of the right foot against the toe of the left foot. He will be expected to stand and maintain that position until the police officer has given him the verbal instructions for how to complete the test.

And then the driver is instructed that they have to take nine steps heel-to-toe. They are then demonstrated how to make a very specific turn. And then they are advised that they will have to walk back nine steps again touching heel-to-toe. They are instructed to count their steps out loud.

All of these instructions are created for the purpose of the officer looking to see if the driver’s coordination has been effected by alcohol. . So, the officer is looking for answers to questions such as,

  • Does the driver stay in that initial position that he was instructed?
  • Does he or she have to sway or use his arms for balance?
  • Is he or she able to walk the first nine steps heel-to-toe and not have any space between those steps?
  • Does the driver execute an improper turn or take an incorrect number of steps?

One Leg Stand Test

The one leg stand test is a test that is used to see if the driver can focus and pay attention to the instructions and if the driver has the ability and coordination to be able to stand on one leg. The defendant is placed in an initial position and is required to stand in that way until the test has been explained.

Then the driver is told to begin to raise one leg, either leg, his foot approximately 6 inches off the ground. Meanwhile, keeping the raised foot parallel to the ground. They are instructed that they have to keep both of their legs straight and their arms should be at their side. While they hold that position, they have to count out loud from 1000. For example, 1001, 1002, 1003 until they are instructed by the officer to stop.

They are expected to perform that test and complete it in a way that they were just instructed, to keep their arms with their sides at all times, and to keep their eyes watching the foot that they raised.

Again, this is all about the officer looking to see:

  • Does the driver sway while balancing?
  • Does he put his foot down in order to maintain balance?
  • Does he lift his arms for balance?
  • Does he have to hop in order to not fall down?

These are the sort of clues that the officer is looking for, those are the facts that the officer can subsequently testify to at the defendant’s trial.

Field Sobriety Tests in Salisbury DUI Stops