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Standardized Field Sobriety Test

White Plains DWI Lawyer

Being suspected of driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a position that thousands of people find themselves in each year. Many of these people are wrongfully accused or charged harsher than they should be. It can be a stressful and humiliating thing for many people to be pulled to the side of the road and asked to submit to a number of tests from officers. It can become even more disheartening when your rights are overlooked and you are treated as a common criminal. It is the belief of my firm that you have rights and I will fight to protect these. This includes presenting your case before the judge or jury to demonstrate the injustice you are facing.

You may have been asked to submit to a field sobriety test and often times the officer has already made up their mind about you at this point. The field sobriety tests were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and they are used as a means for officers to assess if a person is intoxicated beyond the level that they are able to operate a vehicle. Through these test the officers will be investigating a number of details about the suspect but often times, they have already come to a conclusion by the time they run these. There are three tests that are approved, including the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN), the Walk and Turn and the One Leg Stand. In addition to using these, officers will review the behavior of the suspect and can also use a chemical test.

The HGN Test

The HGN tests is often used and it can give insight into what internal workings of the suspect. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is reviewed in these cases and this is the involuntary jerking motion that they eye makes when it is take too far out to the site. Typically, this action will occur in a person when they rotate their eyes and higher angles. Under the effects of alcohol, however, nystagmus is increased and made more noticeable. This is not the only reason that this can occur so it is important to remember that these signs are not an automatic evidence of alcohol impairment.

Through this test, three areas will be assessed on each eye. The test will begin with the officer using some type of object, such as a flashlight or pen, and asking the suspect to follow the object with their eyes. At this point, they will be looking at how smooth the transition of their eyes is when moving from side to side. After that they will inspect if any jerking of the eye takes place when it is brought out to maximum deviation. Next, they will review if this jerking takes place within 45 degrees from the center of the eye. There are a number of factors that can come into play in these cases and a suspect will typically need to exhibit a few of these signs in order to fail the test.

Walk-and-Turn Test

This test can seem simple at first but there are a number of areas that are being reviewed by the officer. During the walk and turn test, the suspect will be asked to take nine steps, walking heel to toe on a straight line. Once they get to the end of the nine steps, they will need to pivot on one foot and come back in the same way. Sounds simple enough right? An officer will actual be looking for eight different indicators during this test to determine if alcohol is a factor. These signs include the following:

  • If the suspect begins before hearing all of the instructions
  • If they are unable to balance at the same time as hearing instructions
  • If they have to take a break to rebalance during the steps
  • If they fall from the line
  • If they do not touch heel to toe when walking
  • If they make a wrong turn
  • If they put their arms out for balance
  • If they take more or less than nine steps

One-Leg Stand Test

During this test, the suspect will be required to stand on one leg for a period of 30 seconds. They will need to count out loud by thousands until they Field Sobriety Test are instructed by the officer that the test is over. When standing on one foot, the officer will be viewing if they need to put their foot down, if they are swaying, if they hop back and forth from one foot to the other to stay balances, or if they have to put their arms out to remain steady.

Defending Against Failed Test Results

In addition to the tests, the officers also look at the all-around behavior of the suspect. These tests can be used to gain greater accuracy, but they can also offer false information. They may also be subjective and it is not always clear cut if a person failed the tests of not. Much of it can be based off of the opinion of the officer. These tests can be wrong and the court recognizes that a person should not be automatically considered guilty just for failing them. The officer may have made an error in their judgment or is not trained sufficiently to make the judgment. I understand the weak points that can be present in these cases and will investigate your charges to determine if you have been wronged.

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Law Office of John M. Cromwell - White Plains Criminal Attorney
Located at 177 E. 161st St., Bronx, NY 10451.
Phone: (888) 372-9209.
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