Field Sobriety Tests

How can an officer tell if a driver is drunk?

Although police officers can make a legal DUI stop if a person is driving erratically, they cannot make a legal arrest without adequate grounds. In other words, they must have solid evidence to back up their suspicion that the motorist was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. One way to determine whether or not a person is intoxicated is to subject them to a preliminary breathalyzer test (handheld). Another way is to have them take one or more field sobriety tests.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standardized three different field sobriety tests to ensure that all suspected motorists are evaluated equally. If these tests are improperly administered by the arresting officer, then you and your Kansas City DUI attorney may be able to challenge whether the test results are valid or admissible in court. These tests are as follows:

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
This test is not admissible in many states including Kansas because officers lack the medical background to administer or interpret the test. The test is admissible in Missouri, but it is not very reliable and we recommend that you refuse to do this test. The theory behind the test is that excessive alcohol consumption can cause a person's eyes to track unevenly or twitch when they look too far to the left or right. A police officer will conduct the HGN test by having the driver hold their head still in a forward-facing position while their eyes follow an object, such as the officer's pen or finger, as it passes from side to side in front of their face. If the driver's eyes twitch or spasm, then the officer will often fail the driver. Unfortunately, many things including a common cold can cause someone's eyes to twitch during this test. Hire an experienced Kansas City DUI attorney to fight the results of this inherently inaccurate test.

Walk and Turn (WAT)
The suspected drunk driver will be required to "walk the line" with their arms at their sides while counting their steps out loud, turn, and repeat the action. The standardized test calls for nine steps in each direction. If the suspect loses their balance, raises their arms, steps off the line, loses balance during the turn, fails to touch heel to toe, and / or has trouble following directions, then the officer will report this as a fail on the Walk and Turn test. Only two mistakes are required to fail the test. This test is only considered 68% accurate, thus is incorrect about 1/3 of the time. KC DUI Attorney Paul Burmaster recommends that you do not do this test. It is not against the law to refuse these tests in Kansas or Missouri.

One-Leg Stand (OLS)
This test requires the driver to stand on one leg with their arms down at their sides while counting out loud. The test should be timed for 30 seconds. If the driver loses their balance, puts their foot down, hops, or sways, then the officer will fail them on the One Leg Stand test. This test is only 65% accurate according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- and so it, again, in wrong about 1/3 of the time. It's best to refuse this test. Why take such an imperfect test that expects you to perform perfectly?

Legal Representation in Kansas City, MO and Overland Park, KS

Failure of any of the three standardized tests will be used to justify a DUI arrest. If you've been charged with DUI, Attorney Paul Burmaster can fight to prove that your test results were flawed. Medical conditions, sports injuries, fatigue, fear, and other factors including the inherent flaws in the tests can affect your ability to pass. Contact our firm today to find out how we can fight your charges and prevent you from facing the penalties of a DUI conviction.

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