What is involved in a Field Sobriety Test in Washington D.C.

By the 1970s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had developed the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) in cooperation with the Southern California Research Institute. The NHTSA claims that this series of tests, if they are performed correctly, are valid indicators for a driver’s intoxication or impairment and can help police officers establish probable cause for a DUI arrest.

Washington, D.C. drivers, who have failed a field sobriety test, can contact a Washington, D.C. DUI lawyer for information. Washington, D.C. field sobriety tests can include: the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk and turn, and the one leg stand test. Washington, D.C. police officers can use the results of these tests as evidence that the driver is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI).

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in Washington, D.C., and drivers can be arrested if their blood alcohol level is 0.08% or higher or if their driving is impaired by consuming any type of drug or alcoholic beverage. The field sobriety test is a valuable tool for field officers and although the evidence for the field sobriety test is not always used during a DUI trial, it can be used to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest.

Field sobriety tests are conducted by field officers who may fail to give adequate instructions or who may not take into consideration the limitations of certain drivers who perform the test. Washington D.C. drivers who are more than 50 pounds overweight, who have physical limitations, who are fatigued or who are over the age of 65 may have difficulty performing the field sobriety test accurately, even if they are sober. A Washington, D.C. lawyer can review a driver’s field sobriety test and determine if there are any factors, other than intoxication, which may have caused a driver to fail

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

For the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the Washington, D.C. police officer will ask the driver to follow the path of either a small flashlight or pen as the officer moves it horizontally across the driver’s face. The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test can gage the involuntary jerking of the driver’s eye as it follows the object. Scientific studies have concluded that drivers that are impaired by alcohol or drugs will have a nystagmus which is exaggerated and will have trouble smoothly tracking a moving object. During the test, the Washington, D.C. officer observes the driver’s eyes as they follow the object watching for clues which suggest intoxication. Can the driver follow the object smoothly? Does the onset of nystgmus occur before the eye reaches 45 degrees? If the officer observes these clues he may conclude the driver is intoxicated.

Walk and Turn

For the walk and turn test the driver is instructed to walk 9 steps forward down an imaginary or real line, heel to toe. The driver than should turn and walk back 9 steps. The officer is observing if the Washington, D.C. driver can keep their balance, wait to start the test until after the instructions are given, walk heel to toe, stay on the line, keep their arms to their sides and not fall.

One Leg Stand

For the one leg stand test the driver is instructed to stand on one leg, hands to their side with the other foot suspended 6 inches from the ground. The officer or driver may count aloud for 30 seconds. If the driver puts their leg down, uses their arms for balance, falls, hops or sways it can be evidence of intoxication.

Hiring a Washington, D.C. Lawyer

DUI convictions carry severe, long-lasting penalties including loss of license, higher fines, and potential jail terms. Drivers who fail a field sobriety test in Washington, D.C., can get help from a Washington, D.C. attorney who specializes in criminal law. DUI lawyers in Washington, D.C., understand the complexities of DUI laws and can help Washington, D.C. drivers fight their DUI charges. No DUI lawyer can guarantee that they can get a DUI charge dismissed, but a knowledgeable and competent DUI lawyer is a driver’s best chance for a great DUI defense.