In addition to breath test results, prosecutors will attempt to prove a DUI suspect's normal faculties were impaired by showing performance on the roadside sobriety exercises. Don't be fooled. No matter how agile, the odds of you someone passing these exercises is low. The tests are difficult to perform successfully, and are often incorrectly administered. The best of the field sobriety tests with regard to accuracy is only 77% accurate. The rest are lower; nonetheless, you could face an arrest after failing to be able to stand on one leg for 30 seconds – not easy to do, at the best of times.
Each will not only test your physical ability but also your mental abilities. Imagine yourself walking the plank while at the same time being required to recite the names of the 13 Original Colonies and you will have some understanding of what it is like to undergo the Standard Field Sobriety Exercises.
The "Walk-and-Turn" test requires to stand with heel touching his toe and hands at sides. The driver must remain in this position during the instructions. Next, the driver is instructed to walk nine steps touching heel to toe on each and counting aloud each step. At the end of nine steps the driver is instructed to make a turn consisting of four small steps, then proceed to take nine steps back to the start, again touching heel to toe with hands at sides. The directions are difficult to follow, and walking heel to toe is actually rather difficult, as it is unnatural. This isn't easy.
There are over eight ways to show a sign of impairment on each step. With eighteen steps and one turn, there are 145 ways that a driver could "fail" the test. You only get one chance to get something wrong. Two "cues" will constitute a failure. So, if you raise your hands from your sides over six (6) inches on the first step that is one mistake. If you raise your hands one more time, or even if you fail to put them down on your second step, that's two cues and you fail. Think back to grade school. If you scored 143 out of 145 that would be a 98% and you would probably get the highest grade in that class. A 98% on the walk-and-turn test is an F, leading to breath or blood testing, and an arrest.
This is considered the most accurate of all field sobriety tests. "Nystagmus" refers to the involuntary jerking or bouncing of the eyeball. The test involves a police officer shining a light into your eye. How the test is administered is an important issue with regard to test results, and if there are blinking or flashing lights that are visible while you are tested, it will impact the outcome of the test. Law enforcement procedure involves telling the suspect, "I am now going to check your eyes." Glasses must be removed. You should have been asked if you have any visual impairment that could affect the test results, which some people do, such as a natural nystagmus, or jerking of the eye. The officer will still proceed with the testing, but is required to note this condition, as well as if the suspect is wearing contact lenses.
The test involves the officer asking the suspect to follow a small light (pen light) with his or her eyes. The light must be 12 – 15 inches from the suspect's face. The head is supposed to remain stationary, with only the eyes following the light. This test has been established to have a 77% accuracy when measured against actual alcohol impairment, by the NHTSA. There are many cases that involve an incorrect administration of the test. You need to find out if that happened to you.
The third standard Field Sobriety Test is the "One-Leg Stand." This test has been proven to have a 65% accuracy rate in determining actual alcohol intoxication. The officer is required to demonstrate to the suspect how the test is to be performed. The suspect is directed to keep his or her hands at the side, while raising the leg about 6 inches above the ground. The suspect is then asked to count, using "one thousand one, one thousand two…" and so on. The officer is looking for various indications of intoxication, including swaying, using the arms for balance, hopping on the foot on the ground to regain balance, and resting the foot on ground. This test must be administered correctly to reach its (very low) rate of accuracy. It must be administered on hard, level dry surface.
If you have been asked to exit your vehicle the officer believes he or she has enough evidence already to arrest you for DUI. Therefore, taking these exercises and even passing them will not ensure that you will be going home. It is to your advantage to refuse to do these exercises. They are not mandatory and your license will not be suspended for a refusal. Ask the officer if they are voluntary, which they are. When he says "Yes." which he will 95% of the time, the fact of your refusal cannot be used against you.
For over 30 years and 3,000+ cases, we have been challenging these DUI roadside sobriety tests. Call my firm for a free, no obligation consultation.