Understanding The Field Sobriety Test In Illinois

Illinois drivers, who have consumed too much alcohol, can be stopped for DUI or driving under the influence of alcohol. Illinois police officers can use field sobriety tests to provide additional DUI evidence and to establish probable cause for an Illinois DUI arrest. Field sobriety tests are most effective at identifying drivers who have a blood alcohol concentration or BAC of 0.08% or greater- which is the illegal limit for every state.

Law enforcement officers have used field sobriety tests for many years. Field sobriety testing which was standardized in the late 1970s by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), are not always 100% accurate and can depend on the subjective analysis of Illinois police officers.

Illinois drivers, who have failed a field sobriety test, can contact an Illinois DUI lawyer for information about their Illinois DUI arrest. Contacting an Illinois attorney can allow a driver to challenge the reliability of the test. Certain conditions may make it difficult for drivers to pass a field sobriety test including:

  • The physical limitations of the Illinois driver
  • If the driver is more than 50 pounds over weight
  • If the driver is over the age of 65
  • Inadequate lighting for the test
  • Poor weather conditions
  • Inadequate testing instructions given prior to the Illinois test

Hiring an Illinois DUI Lawyer

Illinois DUI lawyers can help with every step of the DUI process including: evaluating the DUI arrest, determining if the police officer had probable cause for the DUI arrest and developing a DUI defense. A DUI conviction can have severe penalties for Illinois drivers including:

  • Paying high fines and fees
  • Attending a mandatory drug and alcohol education program
  • Requiring drivers to install an Ignition Interlock Device in their vehicle
  • Loss of driving privileges in Illinois
  • Performing mandatory community service

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

Illinois police officers can use the HGN or the horizontal gaze nystagmus test to measure the nystagmus or the “congenital or acquired persistent, rapid, involuntary, and oscillatory movement of the Illinois driver’s eyeballs”. While this condition is common for all drivers, it is pronounced for drivers who are intoxicated.

For the HGN test, an Illinois officer will have a driver track a small light or pen with their eyes while holding their head steady. Drivers who are not intoxicated can track the light with a controlled movement. Intoxicated drivers, however, will have an exaggerated jerking eye motion as they track the object. Police officers are supposed to grade a driver’s intoxication level using the NHTSA testing standards:

  • Is the Illinois driver able to follow an object consistently and smoothly with their eyes?
  • Is the driver’s Nystagmus distinct when the eye is at maximum deviation?
  • Is the angle of the onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees?

There are certain inhalants, barbiturates and medications which can also be detected with the HGN test. Fatigue, severe head injury, congenital eye defects and neurological conditions can also cause a driver to fail an HGN test.

Walk the Line Test

The walk the line test allows the Illinois police officer to determine if drivers are able to perform cognitive and physical tasks simultaneously. For the walk the line test the officer will ask drivers to stand on a real or an imaginary line, face forward, with their arms to their sides. The driver is than asked to walk 9 steps down the line, turn and return. Illinois police officers should use the NHTSA criteria to evaluate a driver’s intoxication level:

  • · Drivers are not able to balance on a line.
  • Drivers start the test prior to the completion of the instructions.
  • The driver loses balance prior to beginning of the test.
  • Drivers take the wrong number of steps.
  • The driver does not walk heel to toe.
  • The driver does not turn properly.
  • The driver stops midway through the test.
  • The driver has to use their arms to maintain balance.

The test should be performed on a solid, hard, dry surface. Instructions should be given prior to the test. Some drivers with physical limitations may have difficulty performing this test.

One Leg Stand Test

Illinois officers can also test the intoxication of drivers and whether or not they are DUI in Illinois with the one leg stand test. Prior to the one leg stand test the driver should be given directions and a demonstration of the proper testing technique. Illinois drivers are asked to stand straight, arms to their sides, facing forward. The driver should be able to raise one of their feet approximately 6 inches off the ground for 30 seconds. Illinois police officers should evaluate the driver on the four NHTSA testing criteria:

  • Is a driver able to maintain their balance with out swaying back and forth?
  • Does the driver have to bounce to keep from falling?
  • Does the driver lower their foot before the test is completed?
  • Does the driver raise their arms to stay balanced?

Did You Fail A Field Sobriety Test?

Drivers can be arrested for DUI if they are under the influence of alcohol and are unable to safely operate a motorized vehicle or if the driver’s BAC is over the legal limit. DUI attorneys in Illinois can evaluate an Illinois DUI arrest and make sure all of the proper DUI testing procedures were followed and the Illinois police officer had probable cause for a DUI arrest. Drivers may be able to legally refuse am Illinois field sobriety test, but it may not stop officer from arresting the driver for DUI.