Field Sobriety TestsLawyer Suwanee & Gwinnett County
DUI Field Sobriety Tests: What To Know
Getting pulled over by the police always makes your heart skip a few beats, but when you’ve had any alcohol, the situation is that much more stressful. Knowing what to expect can help calm your nerves. That is why we’ve put together some helpful information about DUI field sobriety tests. Be an informed driver.
Standardized Field Sobriety Evaluations (SFST’s)
In Georgia, field sobriety tests are typically used by law enforcement during a DUI arrest to determine whether or not a person has been driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Although being pulled over and arrested for DUI is a frightening experience, field sobriety results can be challenged in a number of ways. The surest way to challenge those results, and retain your driving privileges, is by calling the right DUI defense attorney.
The DUI attorneys at Banks, Stubbs & McFarland LLP routinely defend clients who have been charged with driving under the influence with clients in the following areas: Gwinnett County, Forsyth County, Hall County, Barrow County, Jackson County, and Dawson County.
Our legal team has a well-earned reputation for providing our clients with aggressive legal representation and exceptional personal service. Well-versed in the applicable Georgia DUI laws, we know how to challenge field sobriety tests. When you work with our DUI attorneys, you can rest assured that dedicated advocates will be fighting for your rights.
How are Field Sobriety Tests Conducted in Georgia?
Police officers commonly use three field sobriety tests are conducted in the state that has been standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) — Also known as the “DUI eye test,” the arresting officer observes how the driver’s eyes react to external stimuli (e.g. following a flashlight or pen) to detect involuntary jerking movements (nystagmus) of the eyeball.
- Walk and Turn — The driver is instructed to walk nine steps heel to toe along a straight line, turn and repeat.
- Leg Stand Test — The driver is instructed to stand on one leg and remain in that position for thirty seconds to determine if his or her balance has been affected due to impairment. Read more about walking and standing DUI tests.
- Post Arrest Tests —These are tests law enforcement officials may administer after you have been arrested. Read more about post-arrest DUI tests.
Additionally, officers often ask drivers to undergo other, nonstandardized field sobriety tests. Such tests have not been validated by the NHTSA or other authorities and may therefore not be indicative of impairment. The standardized tests have been analyzed, however, to suggest that there is a correlation between drug or alcohol impairment and an individual’s ability to drive.
The attorneys at Banks, Stubbs & McFarland LLP are keenly aware that the standardized field sobriety tests are highly subjective. Such tests are based on the observations of the arresting officer, and not everyone is a good candidate for each test.
With the HGN test, for example, some individuals may have certain eye or health conditions that police frequently mistake as signs of impairment. Similarly, the walk and turn test may yield inaccurate results, particularly for those who may be injured, overweight or elderly.
Finally, the fact that such tests are “standardized” means that they must be administered according to strict guidelines. Any deviation from those guidelines may invalidate the test results. At the end of the day, it takes an experienced Georgia DUI attorney to challenge the results of a field sobriety test.
Other Sobriety Tests Commonly Used
There are also evaluations that are not standardized or approved through NHTSA and generally are only as effective as the officer is at conveying his/her interpretations to the jury.
However, these non-standardized sobriety tests are done with increased frequency and often have an impact on how cases are evaluated.
A list of these evaluations and an explanation of how they work follow:
- Alphabet Test– an officer instructs a suspect to say the alphabet from one letter to another (ex: from E to U). The suspect is asked not to sing the letters and the officer notes whether letters are transposed, omitted, or sung. The idea behind this test is to suggest that an individual can’t do a basic fundamental task due to impairment.
- Rhomberg Evaluation– this non-standard sobriety test is where the officer asks a suspect to put their hands to their side, tilt their head back, close their eyes, estimate the passage of 30 seconds, and once 30 seconds has passed, tilt their head forward and open their eyes. The officer is watching the subjects gait and getting a gauge on their internal clock. If there is a noticeable sway or tremors, this might suggest impairment. A fast internal clock (estimates 30 seconds in 15 seconds time) could suggest the use of a stimulant while a slow internal clock could suggest a depressant.
- Finger To Nose Test– This test is where the subject asked to tilt head back and extend arms out to their side and bend their arms to touch their fingertip to their nose. It is supposed to measure major and fine motor skills.
- Finger Tip Touch Test– The subject is asked to touch their thumb to their first, second, third and fourth finger in sequence, and then in reverse order. They are asked to count out loud and not to stop until told to do so. This non-standardized test is suppose to measure fine motor skills and simple counting.
- Preliminary Breath Test (PBT)– This is a breath testing device that is utilized on the side of the road. Although an officer sees a BAC number, the only thing that is admissible in court is testimony of “positive” or “negative” for alcohol.
Again, none of these evaluations are certified through NHTSA; however, they are commonly used. With the right defense, they can be easily discredited.
Should I Even Agree To Take A DUI Field Sobriety Test?
It’s a question our DUI lawyers get asked all the time. While we really can’t answer that for you in your particular situation, you should know what will happen if you refuse to take the sobriety tests. There will be consequences, but we can help you navigate those issues. Learn more about the answer to “Should I take a DUI field sobriety test?“
Why You Need Banks, Stubbs & McFarland LLP to Defend Your DUI Charges
Being charged with DUI based on field sobriety test results does not mean a conviction is inevitable. Bear in mind that Georgia is an implied consent state, which means that anyone who obtains a driver’s license in the state agrees to be chemically tested (e.g. breathalyzer or blood test) to determine their blood alcohol content level (BAC). In any event, the first line of defense against DUI charges is successfully challenging the results of a field sobriety test.
At Banks, Stubbs & McFarland LLP, we will take the time to understand the circumstances of your arrest. Some of the questions we will explore include:
- Were you pulled over for suspicion of DUI?
- Were you pulled over for a traffic violation and then arrested for DUI?
- Were you arrested at a DUI roadblock or checkpoint?
In addition, we will conduct an extensive investigation by obtaining a copy of the police report and the video recording of the field sobriety test. We will also interview any witnesses, including the arresting officers.
Our team will then work strategically to attack the validity of the field sobriety test results. This starts by questioning the training and experience, or lack thereof, of the arresting officer who administered the test. The police must provide proper instructions on how to perform the test and consider the lighting, terrain and weather conditions as the test is being administered.
If the police fail to provide adequate instructions or the test was conducted on a poorly lit or uneven road, the results of the field sobriety test may be invalidated. Lastly, we may be able to demonstrate that a physical condition — a disability, ear infection, vision problems, or other conditions affecting equilibrium and balance — negatively impacted your ability to perform the field sobriety test.
Metro Atlanta DUI Attorney
Don’t take a DUI charge lightly — a conviction can result in the loss of your driving privileges, fines, probation, and even imprisonment. With so much at stake, it is crucial to have an accomplished DUI attorney on your side.
At Banks, Stubbs & McFarland LLP, we have a proven track record of defending our clients against DUI charges by successfully challenging field sobriety tests. If you have been charged with DUI in the Northern Atlanta area, call our office today or complete the convenient online contact form to set up a free consultation.
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Our Service Area
We are located in Suwanee Georgia, but we defend clients throughout Gwinnett County, Forsyth County, Hall County, Barrow County, Jackson County, and Dawson County. Contact our Atlanta law firm as soon as possible to learn how we advocate for your best interests.