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Plymouth Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are a standard tool that police officers use to evaluate whether drivers are intoxicated or impaired by alcohol or drugs. The results of Plymouth field sobriety tests may cause officers to proceed with an arrest for OWI.

In some cases, incorrect administration or scoring of standardized field sobriety tests can lead to wrongful arrests and charges, and other factors also may contribute to inaccurate results from field sobriety tests. A DUI defense attorney may be able to assist you with challenging the results of field sobriety tests and fighting back against OWI charges.

The Basis for Field Sobriety Tests

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has developed various field sobriety tests specifically designed to measure impairment in drivers due to alcohol or drugs. Field sobriety tests are not chemical tests, but rather tests of observation that relate to physical balance and coordination, ability to divide attention as well as the ability to understand and follow directions. Law enforcement officers often employ these tests during a traffic stop to determine whether they have probable cause for a drunk driving arrest.

Police officers may ask individuals to undergo sobriety tests and expect that they will comply. However, individuals are not required to take field sobriety tests during a traffic stop, even if officers suspected that alcohol or drugs impair them. As a result, individuals may decline to take the field sobriety tests as requested.

Common Types of Field Sobriety Tests

There are three standard field sobriety tests that the NHTSA has prescribed for use by law enforcement officials in Plymouth and elsewhere. The results of these tests collectively can indicate impairment in drivers due to alcohol or drug use.

One-Leg Stand Test

This field sobriety test requires you to maintain your balance by standing on one leg only. Falling over, putting your foot down during the test, swaying, using your arms for balance, or hopping can be signs of impairment.

Walk-and-Turn Test

The walk-and-turn test requires you to walk a straight line, usually heel-to-toe, and then turn around and walk back to where you started in the same manner. Stepping off the “start position,” beginning too soon, stopping after the test begins, failing to touch heel-to-toe, stepping off the line, using arms for balance, turning improperly, and taking the wrong number of steps all can indicate impairment.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

In this evaluation, the officer will ask you to follow a pen, flashlight, finger, or another object with your eyes. Individuals who are unable to track the movement of the object may be showing signs of impairment. During this test, the officers will look for jerking movements of the eyes to prove impairment. Like the other two standardized tests, there are clues associated with the horizontal gaze nystagmus, as well.  These including jerking while the eyes are moving horizontally across a plain (lack of smooth pursuit), jerking prior to 45 degrees, and distinct and sustained jerking at “maximum deviation.”

The Reliability of Test Results

Unlike chemical tests that measure blood alcohol content (BAC) and compare the results to a lawfully prescribed BAC limit, field sobriety tests may yield unreliable results. The outcome of these tests is entirely based on the observations of the officer administering the tests, and their subjective nature can lead to inconsistent results.

Furthermore, the field sobriety testing process used in Plymouth may yield results that can be attributed to something other than impairment by alcohol or drugs. Medication, fatigue, illness, and other factors all may impact your ability to complete field sobriety tests. In many cases, what officers may perceive to be a field sobriety test “failure” may not be due to intoxication at all.

Understanding the Implications of Field Sobriety Tests in Plymouth

If police officers arrest you after you undergo field sobriety tests, you may feel as if all hope is lost and that a conviction for OWI is inevitable. Fortunately, when OWI charges partially rely on the results of Plymouth field sobriety tests, you may have adequate grounds to challenge the charges.

Legal counsel may be able to examine any video footage, police reports, and your account of the testing to determine if any irregularities occurred. By taking these steps, you may have a better chance of obtaining a positive outcome.