Finding yourself pulled over by a police officer in Raleigh is bad enough. Now you’re being asked to take tests to prove that you’re sober. You know that these field sobriety tests are actually intended to prove that you’re inebriated. Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t, but you know that whatever happens, the tests will be brought to court. So, are they actually admissible?
Taking Or Not Taking Field Sobriety Tests
In our blog from December, we discussed the three parts to Field Sobriety Tests (FST). They are:
- The “Walk-And-Turn” Test
- The “One Leg Stand” Test
- The “Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test” (HGN)
Police perform these tests at a roadside stop or at DUI checkpoints when an officer has reason to believe you are driving intoxicated.
These Raleigh field sobriety tests were developed and perfected in a laboratory, but side-of-the-road testing may not always be as effective, or accurate.
The officer makes the arrest decision based on the way you perform on these tests as to whether you are “impaired.” But the same “clues” that tell a police officer that you are intoxicated can also be attributed to other factors. Medications, weather, the time of day or night, your physical condition, and other factors can contribute to “failing” standard FSTs.
For instance, if you were playing basketball earlier in the day and twisted your knee, you’ll likely have trouble with the first two tests, especially if your knee still hurts. Even if you’ve consumed no alcohol, the officer may declare you “intoxicated,” because you couldn’t walk exactly right or stand on one knee.
Fighting Back Against an FST
Raleigh, NC Field sobriety testing is admissible in court, if everything was conducted correctly and the officer correctly followed procedure. In many cases, however, they weren’t, and can be rendered inadmissible. A DUI defense attorney can challenge the results and the way they were taken, and have the results dismissed from the case.
If these roadside assessments were accurate more than 90% of the time, you probably wouldn’t be able to defend yourself in court, let alone have the charges dismissed. But Field Sobriety Tests aren’t always accurate, particularly when given at a roadside stop. Even sober drivers may not be able to pass an FST for reasons other than alcohol consumption and/or intoxication.
Research from the Southern California Research Institute shows that each of these tests are accurate less than 80% of the time. Police officers must also follow a procedure to properly administer an FST. If he or she fails to follow procedure, some or all of the collected evidence can be dismissed.
You can refuse to take FST, particularly if you have other conditions that would cause you to “fail” the test, such as an injury. Inform the officer that you are declining to take these tests because of their inaccuracy. He or she cannot take your license based on FST refusal.
However, your refusal can be a reason to arrest you anyway and require you to take a Breathalyzer or other chemical test for BAC (blood alcohol content). A refusal can also be used against you in court later (North Carolina General Statute § 20-139.1(f)), and the officer can claim that your refusal was due to a “guilty conscience,” because you knew that you were “intoxicated.”
Whichever choice you make, it’s important to be polite, and cooperate with the police officer’s requests.
Occasionally, officers may request you to attempt non-standard FSTs, including:
- Reciting the alphabet, or reciting it backwards
- Counting to a certain number, then counting backwards
- Putting your finger to your nose
If you’re arrested based on failing these nonstandard roadside tests, a DUI defense attorney can have them dismissed.
As we mentioned in our last blog, refusing a FST is not the same as refusing a EC/IR-II Breathalyzer test, which will result in a 12 month suspension of your license. You may still be arrested for refusing FST, but you won’t lose your license as a result.
Call An Experienced DUI Attorney for Field Sobriety Testing
These roadside tests aren’t always accurate. You need an experienced DUI attorney who can work to have them dismissed, especially if they weren’t properly administered or yielded a false positive.
A Raleigh, NC DUI charge needs to be handled properly to avoid severe consequences—especially if you weren’t driving drunk. Dewey P. Brinkley is a Raleigh DUI defense attorney who can aggressively defend you and protect your rights in court, ensuring a fair trial.
Call the law offices of Dewey P. Brinkley today for a free initial consultation to discuss your DUI case at (919) 832-0307. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use our online contact form.