This post was contributed by Jason Korner, an experienced trial attorney in the field of DUI/DWI. Additional information about Mr. Korner can be found at www.kornerlaw.com.
My clients often have many questions about the field sobriety tests administered during a DUI investigation. “I admitted to the officer that I had two beers, so why did he ask me to do his tests?” Another common one, “I felt like I did fine on the tests, but the officer still placed me under arrest. Why?” These questions result from a lack of information about the field sobriety tests, because the police are often too busy administering and scoring the tests to give a full explanation of what they are doing and why there are doing it.
The general purpose of field sobriety tests is to give the police officer an objective basis to determine if a DUI suspect is intoxicated. The officer needs to have probable cause to believe a person is intoxicated prior to placing that person under arrest for DUI. Field sobriety tests are one of the best ways to evaluate probable cause for intoxication.
The Officer said I Failed the Tests, What Does That Mean?
There are field sobriety tests and standardized field sobriety tests. Generally, when an officer says someone failed a test, that officer is referring to standardized field sobriety tests. The standardized tests have specific rules about how the tests must be administered, and criteria about how to score the tests. Although the tests are not considered pass or fail, if a test indicates that a person is intoxicated, then most police officers refer to that as failing the test. The three standardized field sobriety tests are:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
- Walk and Turn
- One Leg Stand
Absent any physical injury or impairment, all three of these tests should be administered by a police officer during a DUI investigation. At the conclusion of the three tests, the officer should then take into consideration the results of the tests along with his general observations of the DUI suspect to make a determination on whether the person is intoxicated.
If you have been given field sobriety tests during the course of a DUI investigation, it is important that you speak with an experienced DUI attorney about your case. Only an experienced DUI lawyer will be able to completely answer all of your questions and determine what defenses may be available to you.