What Happens During A Field Sobriety Test In Seattle

Have you been arrested for DUI in Seattle? Did you refuse to take or fail a field sobriety test? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you may need the help of a Settle DUI lawyer. Field sobriety tests are a valuable tool for Seattle law enforcement officers and are standardized tools to detect drivers who are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) or who have consumed alcohol and reached the illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level but continue to drive.

States have a variety of names for drunken driving. Some states refer to it as DUI (driving under the influence) and others call it DWI (driving while impaired or intoxicated) or OUI (operating under influence). Regardless of the name, it is illegal in all states to operate a motor vehicle if you are unable to drive safely.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standardized the field sobriety test in the late 1970s, and today the test is comprised of three components: the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk and turn test and the one leg stand test. Police officers do not always use the field sobriety test evidence in court, but it is one tool an officer has to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest in Seattle. Evidence can also be gathered through observations of the Seattle driver’s driving and a chemical test of the driver’s blood, urine or breath.

Unfortunately, although the field sobriety test can be a great tool for gathering DUI evidence, it also is a subjective assessment of a driver’s condition and may not always produce conclusive results. Drivers who are fatigued, over-weight, aged or on other medications may not always perform the tests successfully.

Hiring a Seattle DUI lawyer

DUI attorneys in Seattle can review the field sobriety test results and other evidence gathered by the arresting officer to determine if the officer performed the test correctly and had enough evidence to arrest the driver for DUI. Seattle DUI lawyers defend hundreds of drivers each year and can answer all of the driver’s Seattle DUI questions and explain the potential DUI penalties drivers may face if they are convicted of DUI in Seattle.

Drivers may refuse to take a field sobriety test in Seattle, but whether or not that is a good idea can depend on a variety of factors. Police officers may not need to complete a field sobriety test to have probable cause to arrest a driver. Drivers who are arrested for DUI in Seattle may be required to submit to a chemical test of their blood, breath or urine. Under Washington’s Implied Consent Laws if a Seattle driver refuses to take the chemical test it can result in the immediate suspension of their driver’s license. This suspension may or may not be successfully challenged through an administrative hearing. Call a DUI lawyer in Seattle for more information about your DUI arrest.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

Seattle police officers may use the HGN or horizontal gaze nystagmus to measure the rapid or involuntary movement of the driver’s eyeball. Scientific studies have proven that consuming drugs or alcohol can affect the ability of the brain to control the muscles in the eye. If the driver is unable to follow the movement of a flashlight or pen with a controlled, coordinated movement as it is slowly moved horizontally across the drivers face, it could be an indication they are intoxicated. Bouncing and jerking motions of the eye can be one side-affect of consuming alcohol or drugs. Seattle drivers who have taken certain medications or who have a congenital eye defect can also have reactions to the HGN test which mimics the reaction of consuming alcohol or drugs.

Walk and Turn

We have all seen the person on the side of the road walking a real or imaginary line, but what are they doing and why has the officer asked them to perform the walk and turn test? The officer is testing the driver’s coordination and balance and their ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously. The walk and turn test requires the driver to take 9 steps with their hands at their sides and their feet stepping heel to toe. If the driver sways, falls or has to use their hands to balance themselves, it could be an indication that they are DUI.

Prior to the test, it is important for Seattle drivers to remove uncomfortable footwear, such as high heals, and complete the test on a dry, flat surface. Seattle officers should also give clear directions before the walk and turn test is begun.

One Leg Stand

Can a driver balance on one leg, their foot raised off the ground approximately 6 inches and count to 30? If not, it could be an indication they are intoxicated. Drivers can fail the one leg stand test if they fail to maintain balance, fall, shift, lose count or have to use their arms to balance themselves. The NHTSA estimates if this test is done correctly the accuracy rating can be as high as 83%.

A field sobriety test is a good tool and it can provide valuable evidence to Seattle law enforcement officers. Evaluating the results of the test is a subjective process, and Seattle officers can make mistakes. If you have failed a field sobriety test, contact a Seattle DUI lawyer.