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The standardized field sobriety tests are exercises that test a Tarrant County DWI suspect’s balance, attention, and involuntary muscle movements. These tests allow officers to determine if they have probable cause to place someone under arrest for driving while intoxicated.
If you were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, you should let a skilled defense attorney take your case. An experienced lawyer could examine the officer’s conduct during the field sobriety tests to determine if they were properly administered. If not, the error could be used to benefit your defense.
NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) battery is used by police across the country to test drivers who officers suspect of being intoxicated. The standard battery consists of three tests: horizontal gaze nystagmus; walk and turn; and one-leg stand.
Importantly, the standardized field sobriety tests need to be administered in a certain way. They are standardized, which mean the officers use a very specific methodology during administration.
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
For the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN) test, officers have the DWI suspect move their eyes in a certain direction at a certain speed. The officer looks for an involuntary jerking of the eyes at particular angles, which is an indicator that the suspect has a central nervous system depressant in their body.
The Walk-and-Turn Test
The walk and turn test is a divided attention test. The officer has the suspect stand in an unusual position with one foot in front of the other and listen to a series of instructions. They watch to see if a person is able to maintain their balance while standing and listening to instructions. The officer will then have the person take nine steps heel to toe along a straight line, turn in a particular manner, and walk nine steps back. The officer is looking for eight different clues in those particular tests, and two or more is considered a failure.
The One-Leg Stand Test
The one-leg stand is another divided attention test in which the officer asks the suspect to stand, lift one foot off the ground, and hold this position for 30 seconds. Police officers are looking to see whether or not the suspect sways, puts their foot down, uses their arms for balance, and other factors. If they have two or more clues on that test, it is considered a failure.
Impact of the SFST’s During a DWI Trial
These tests play an important role in a DWI trial, but it is not as important as police officers often think. Generally speaking, the tests are very subjective, so whether or not a person is swaying or not swaying is a matter of opinion. A lot of times, it is difficult for juries to understand why someone who looks otherwise normal on the video failed the field sobriety tests.
Additionally, a person is never required to perform field sobriety tests. They are completely voluntary and individuals may refuse for any reason. Many individuals may have physical limitations or health limitations that would prevent them from performing the test or skew the results.
Discuss Your Case with a Tarrant County DWI Attorney
If you were arrested for a DWI after performing the field sobriety tests, you should consult with an experienced attorney. A Tarrant County lawyer could examine the video footage of your field sobriety tests and determine if officers followed the proper procedure.
Call today to schedule a consultation.