Challenging the Field Sobriety Test

What physical conditions might impact the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test?

Field sobriety tests are used by police officers to gather evidence of your intoxication if you have been pulled over on suspicious of driving while intoxicated.  Many people who are stopped by the police comply with the officer’s requests to submit to field sobriety testing, hoping to clear their name. What they do not realize is that even if you believe you have passed the test, the true intent of the test is to gather evidence of your intoxication and review of the tests is subjective.  There are fortunately several ways that DWI defendants can challenge the results of a field sobriety test.

The Three Types of Field Sobriety Tests

There are three main types of field sobriety tests administered by officers nationwide. These include the:

  • One-leg stand test:  For the one-leg stand test, the person will be asked to stand with one foot held approximately six inches above the ground while counting to 30.  Police will look for any potential signs of intoxication, which could include swaying, using their arms for balance, and hopping.

  • Walk-and-turn test:  The officer will request the person take nine steps in a heal-to-toe manner in a straight line then turn on one foot only and return using the same walking manner.  The officer will be on the alert for signs of intoxication like stepping off the straight line, trouble balancing, or using the arms to balance.
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test:  Here, the officer will move a pen or flashlight back and forth in front of the person’s eyes, looking to see if he or she has trouble following the light.



Contesting the Field Sobriety Test Results

There are several potential grounds to challenge a field sobriety test.  For starters, you can question the reliability of the test itself. Several studies have shown that even properly administered, the tests are far from one hundred percent accurate.  You can further challenge the officer’s execution of the test. If the arresting officer failed to perform the test per the guidelines set out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, then the results should be excluded.

If you have a physical or mental condition that could have impacted the test, you can challenge the officer’s failure to take into account this condition.  For instance, should you have an inner ear condition at the time of your arrest, this may have impacted your balance. Neurological issues or movement disorders can also cause a sober person to fail a field sobriety test. Contact a DWI defense lawyer for assistance defending against the charges you face.

Posted in: DWI