Field sobriety tests are conducted to establish how intoxicated a DUI suspect is in Georgia and elsewhere. They are often administered by police officers before a breath or blood test. You do not have to take a field sobriety test in Georgia.
So-called Standard Field Sobriety Tests were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Common tests include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, the finger-to-nose test, the one-leg-stand, walk-and-turn, and counting backward.
Even the tests favored by NHTSA are notoriously unreliable. These tests are set up to make the driver fail. Politely refuse to take any of these tests.
Many drivers who are pulled over by the police on suspicion of a DUI do not realize that they have the right to refuse to take a field sobriety test.
If you refuse to take a blood, breath, or urine test to determine blood/ alcohol content (BAC) after an arrest your driver’s license may be suspended for a year. However, field sobriety tests do not include a measurement of blood/alcohol content. The lack of science behind such tests means the results are not usually strong enough to hold up in court.
However, failing a field sobriety test is noted in an arrest report or used to justify a driver’s arrest. There is no advantage for the driver to take these tests and many disadvantages.
We are all familiar with tests such as having to walk in a straight line. Although this may seem simple, it’s not so straightforward in the dark when you are facing the trauma of a possible DUI arrest. This scenario is even intimidating for people who have not been drinking alcohol.
The horizontal gaze nystagmus is also flawed. This test is conducted by flashing a bright light into the driver’s eye to see if his or her eye jerks involuntarily while following the light. Police see a jerk as evidence the driver is drunk. Although a nystagmus is insufficient to convict an individual of DUI, it can be used to justify an arrest and subsequent breath test.
Many factors other than intoxication can cause the eye jerks, ranging from sunstroke to epilepsy and taking Aspirin.
Even the NHTSA describes the one-leg stand, in which a suspected drunk driver balances on one leg, to be only 65 percent accurate in determining whether a driver is impaired.
The government agency sets out extremely meticulous methods for officers to follow when administering this test, as well as indicators to look for in scoring the test.
However, police officers regularly administer the test incorrectly, leaving the testing process open to further criticism.
When you are pulled over for a suspected DUI, the police officer, deputy or highway patrol officer will do everything possible to build up a case against you. Agreeing to field sobriety tests can only benefit the officer. If you fail a test, it will help build the case against you. If you pass a test it’s unlikely to prevent a police officer from administering a Breathalyzer test.
People who are pulled over for a DUI should say as little as possible about the accident and politely decline to answer questions like whether they consumed alcohol.
If you are arrested for a DUI in Georgia, you should contact a Georgia criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Call us at (404) 913-1529.