Field Sobriety Tests
Standard Field Sobriety Testing is a series of tests developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Administered by law enforcement, the purpose of these tests is to help determine whether an individual committed a DWI.
As a Houston DWI Lawyer, Herman Martinez is quite familiar with these tests. When an officer asks you to perform these tests, it is important to remember that you have rights.
Typically, SFST consists of three tests administered in a standardized manner. The goal is to attain indicators of impairment and provide probable cause for the arrest. The three tests include the following.
- Walk and turn test
- One leg stand
- Horixontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
If an officer requests that you perform these tests, call our Houston DWI defense attorney for a consultation. Often, these tests don’t consider the full picture, leaving a wide margin of error.
Houston DWI lawyer Herman Martinez has certification with field sobriety tests to help you with your case. To schedule a consultation, call our firm today.
Walk and Turn
There are 15 separate instructions within the Walk-and-Turn test. Here is how the test plays out.
Place your feet on the line in a heel-to-toe manner with your left foot in front of your right with your arms at your side.
As the officer gives you these instructions, they should also demonstrate the position. Never begin the test before they instruct you to. When they instruct you to start, take nine steps heel-to-toe on the line. On your ninth step, take a series of small steps to turn around.
Then, return to your previous position in the same manner. Moreover, count each step you take out loud, and look at your feet as you walk.
Do not raise your arms or stop once you begin the test. Say that you understand the parameters.
There are eight possible indicators in this test, and the officer only needs two for probable cause. With a Houston DWI lawyer on your side, you have an advocate to fight for your future.
- Starts too soon – you start the test before the officer finishes providing instructions.
- Can’t balance during the instructions – you cannot maintain your own balance while the officer explains.
- Stops while walking – you stop during any point of the test.
- Missing heel-to-toe steps – you miss the heel-toe connection by half an inch.
- Raising arms – you raise your arms more than six inches from your body to balance.
- Wrong turn – you fail to turn to the left or don’t use a series of small steps.
- Miscounting steps – you take an incorrect number of steps.
- Stepping off the line – you step off of the designated or imaginary straight line.
An officer may repeat the instructions if you request them to. However, they will not allow you to practice. Because it only requires two clues to fail this test, you need a Houston DWI lawyer who understands the flaws.
There are several problems with this test in the eyes of any Houston DWI attorney.
- There’s no room to practice.
- Weight impacts the results.
- Prior injuries also impact the results.
- It falls to you to disclose any injuries because officers do not ask.
- Officers must determine whether indicators result from nervousness, language barriers, inexperience, etc.
- You receive no credit for what you do correctly.
- Often, officers administer this test on the side of a busy roadway.
The bottom line is that it is quite easy to fail this test. That’s why it is crucial to have an advocate on your side.
One-Leg Stand Test
There are about 13 different instructions in the one-leg stand test. Again, do not begin this test until the officer instructs you to do so. First, you stand straight and place your feet together, holding your arms at your side.
When the officer instructs you to do so, raise one leg about six inches off the ground. Keep your raised foot parallel to the ground. Then, look at your elevated foot and begin to count.
One thousand one – one thousand two – one thousand three – until the officer instructs you to stop.
The officer should use a timer and require you to perform the test for about 30 seconds. There are four indicators within this test. However, it only takes two minor errors for probable cause.
- Swaying – you start to sway as you balance
- Raising arms – you raise your arms more than six inches to maintain balance
- Hopping – you hop to maintain balance.
- Dropping your foot – you put your foot down.
The officer only offers instructions once unless you ask them to repeat them. As you can probably tell, this test sounds easier than it is. Your Houston criminal lawyer will tell you that it often leaves out crucial factors. Balance is not universal, and our bodies aren’t all built the same.
One-Leg Stand Test Flaws
For any Houston DWI lawyer, there are several flaws to consider with the one-leg stand test.
- There’s no opportunity to practice.
- Your weight has the potential to impact results.
- Prior injuries impact the results.
- Officers do not ask about prior injuries to the back, legs, or neck.
- The officer has to determine whether indicators result from inexperience, nervousness, or language barriers.
- There’s no credit for what you do correctly.
- Often, officers administer the test next to a busy street.
- Swaying is a subjective indicator that varies from person to person.
As you can see, there’s a wide margin for error in judgment. When this is the basis of your arrest, our Houston criminal defense lawyer is ready to fight for your future.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
This test relies on a horizontal gaze nystagmus as an indicator of inebriation. An HGN is an involuntary motion in which the eye jerks to the side as your gaze drifts. Typically, this occurs when you rotate your eyes at high angles.
However, with alcohol impairment, this often occurs at lower angles and in an exaggerated movement. Moreover, a drunk driver tends to have greater difficulty tracking moving objects.
When an officer administers this test, they look for three indicators of intoxication.
- Rough pursuit – the eye does not follow a moving object smoothly.
- Distinct jerking at maximum deviation – there is distinct and noticeable jerking when the eye is as far to the side as possible.
- Nystagmus occurs prior to 45 degrees – the jerking begins within 45 degrees of center.
Officers test each eye for indicators. If they observe four or more clues, they consider you intoxicated.
As a Houston DWI lawyer, Herman Martinez recognizes the flaws in field sobriety tests. The HGN has a range of flaws that include the following.
- The test does not measure your mental faculties.
- It does not measure your physical faculties.
- People have natural nystagmus at times.
- The indicators are millimeter ticks in the eye, and the police do not know what is natural for you.
- Too many factors prompt false nystagmus, such as facing the headlights of oncoming traffic.
- The clues have specific time requirements for proper administration. If an officer violates this, it compromises the entire test.
- There’s no camera close enough to your eye for a jury to observe the evidence for themselves.
- Head injuries impact the results.
For a Harris County DWI lawyer, this test has far too many flaws for an officer to gain probable cause in a realistic manner. When you face charges and believe you performed well in a field sobriety test, it is crucial to partner with a Houston DWI lawyer you can trust.
Call the Martinez Law Firm today for a free case evaluation.