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What Are Non-Standard Field Sobriety Tests?

On behalf of Randall & Stump, PLLC in Charlotte DWI Lawyer, DUI/DWI on Thursday, February 6, 2020

 

If you’ve been charged with DWI, you were probably given a field sobriety test at some point. You were asked to count or recite the alphabet, or touch your finger to your nose. For most people, these tests are incredibly stressful and embarrassing, and now the prosecution is saying your results are clear evidence that you were driving while intoxicated.

Fortunately, your case isn’t as open-and-shut as the prosecution would like you to believe. At Randall & Stump, PLLC, our DWI defense attorneys know how to challenge these tests. From the field sobriety test to your constitutional rights, we fight for your rights to get you a fair result. If you’re facing DWI charges, call us at (980) 237-4579 or contact us via our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

The Role of Field Sobriety Tests in Your DWI Case

The police can pull you over for almost any reason, such as a minor traffic infraction or something like a broken tail light. Once they have stopped you, they can rely on other observations to suspect you of DWI – they smelled alcohol on your breath or believed that your eyes were watery and your speech was slurred. At that point, they may request that you perform a series of physical demonstrations known as field sobriety tests (FSTs).

Field sobriety tests are one of the ways that the police establish probable cause to arrest you for DWI. If you do not perform well in the field sobriety tests, the police will then typically ask you to take a breathalyzer test. Your results from the field sobriety test and the breathalyzer test will be two of the chief pieces of evidence used against you.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Standardized field sobriety tests are those recognized by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) as scientifically valid methods of determining a driver’s sobriety. There are three standardized FSTs recognized by the NHTSA:

  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. This is the test where the officer will ask you to follow their finger or a pen with your eyes without turning your head. The officer is looking for six clues such as the involuntary jerking of the eyes rather than a smooth, side-to-side motion as an indicator of intoxication.
  • The walk and turn test. This is the test where you walk heel-to-toe in a straight line, turn, and walk back. The officer is looking for eight clues such as stepping off the line because you are having difficulty maintaining your balance.
  • The one-leg stand test. This is another balance test. You will be asked to stand on one leg with the other foot raised off the ground for 30 seconds. The officer is looking for four clues such as putting your foot down prior to completing the test.

Non-Standard Field Sobriety Tests

While there are only three field sobriety tests recognized by the NHTSA as scientifically accurate, there are several other tests that are commonly administered by police during DWI stops. Here are some of the non-standard field sobriety tests you might experience:

  • Finger-to-nose touch test
  • Reciting the alphabet as instructed and without singing
  • Counting a range of numbers as instructed
  • Rhomberg balance test

These tests are not recognized by the NHTSA because they are not valid indicators of sobriety. These tests are often so complicated that even sober people have difficulty passing them. If you were subjected to a non-standard FST, understand that the prosecution’s case against you may not be very strong. They may try to get you to accept a plea agreement so that they can get a conviction but avoid the scrutiny of a trial.

Challenging a Field Sobriety Test

If you were subjected to only non-standardized FSTs, you may be able to challenge the results of the test and make an argument that the officer did not have probable cause to arrest you. It can also be used to demonstrate that the police department does not use scientifically-recognized methods to establish probable cause, raising the question about whether they are unfairly charging people with DUI.

If only standardized FSTs were administered, do not lose hope. These tests are often incorrectly administered or the results are misinterpreted. This can result in a “false positive” that leads to your DWI charge.

No matter what situation you are in, an experienced North Carolina DWI attorney can defend you against your DWI charge. They will know how to challenge the results of your FST and your breathalyzer test to help you get a fair result.

Contact the Charlotte DWI Attorneys at Randall & Stump, PLLC

If you’ve been charged with DWI, the best thing you can do is to contact an experienced DWI attorney right away. We can evaluate your case and help you build an aggressive and effective legal defense. Call us today at (980) 237-4579 to schedule a free consultation before it’s too late.