When a police officer suspects someone may be drinking and driving, he often asks the person to participate in field sobriety testing. The idea is that these field sobriety tests are a useful screening tool for police to determine the difference between someone who has had a glass of wine and someone who has had a bottle of wine. They both may have an odor of alcohol, but only one might be guilty of driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI).
The person who passes the field sobriety tests will, in theory at least, be free to go on his way. The person who fails the field sobriety tests is arrested and taken to the station for processing.
The three standardized DUI field sobriety tests are:
- One-legged stand
- Walk and turn
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN).
In the one-legged stand, drivers are asked to stand on one foot and then count backward. In this test, your brain is performing two different tasks, both of which require concentration. However, there are many things in addition to alcohol consumption that could explain an error in the recitation or a loss of balance. The officer will not know whether it is your ear infection that led to the loss of balance or your alcohol consumption. They will only write down that you failed.
Walk and Turn
The walk and turn test involves walking heel to toe for ten steps forward, then pivoting and walking heel to toe back again. This is a rather unusual way to walk, and people are unaccustomed to it. A person may very easily stumble off the line or fail to make certain that his heel meets his toe regardless of whether or not he is intoxicated. In many cases, people have other (health-related) problems that affect balance.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) refers to an involuntary reflex in your eye. As an officer asks you to track their pen, their finger, or their flashlight, your eyes will move rapidly back and forth without your control (or even your knowledge, sometimes). This reaction is “gaze nystagmus.” It happens when people reach a certain level of intoxication. It also happens if you have a physical health condition or the officer is careless and doesn't perform the test correctly.
Did You Fail a Field Sobriety Test in Washington State?
If you failed a field sobriety test, you may be facing DUI charges. Vinny Randhawa can help. He knows the flaws inherent in field sobriety testing and is not afraid to challenge the results in court. Every case is different. Whether you have a defense based on the administration of field sobriety charges is based on a variety of factors.
Vinny Randhawa represents people charged with DUI in Seattle or in King County, Pierce County, and Snohomish County. Call today at (425) 228-2202 to discuss the facts and circumstances of your case and to learn what Vinny Randhawa can do for you.