Field Sobriety Tests
Standardized Field Sobriety Testing is in fact based on the subjective assessment of the police officer who conducts the tests, so in essence, it is a misnomer to call it “standardized.” Nonetheless, the results of the Field Sobriety tests are routinely used by officers as their probable cause to make a DWI arrest, and therefore, the testing must be carefully analyzed to determine if it was conducted in accordance with protocols. Police officers are trained at the police academy to conduct the SFST’s in a prescribed manner. Thus, if the tests are not so conducted, it is known that this skews the results. The officers are taught from manuals that are published by the National Highway & Traffic Safety Administration, so by familiarizing ourselves with the procedures that are contained in these manuals, we can quickly determine if there were problems in the way the tests were conducted, the instructions that were given to the client before the tests commenced, whether the conditions were proper for the testing, and whether the findings were interpreted correctly. Field Sobriety Testing is certainly one of the more subjective aspects of a DWI arrest. At the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel in White Plains, New York, we will often challenge field sobriety test results as part of an aggressive drunk driving defense.
Investigating All Aspects of Your Field Sobriety Tests
Our experience in defending clients charged with drunk driving allows us to investigate all aspects of the case and procedures that led up to the actual arrest. That includes the field sobriety test. Before a breathalyzer or any other form of chemical test (blood or urine) is conducted, the arresting officer performs a field sobriety test. This involves various divided attention and balance tests, and in particular, the three generally accepted and utilized Field Sobriety Tests are: the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, in which the officer uses either a pen or other object to track the movement of the eyes as they follow the device and looks for involuntary jerking of the eyes; The One Leg Stand, a test in which the person must stand on one leg for thirty seconds while maintaining balance and counting to 30; and the Walk & Turn, in which the person is required to walk heel to toe on a designated straight line for nine steps in one direction and then in the other, all the while maintaining his or her balance and following specific directions. These balance and divide attention tests must be conducted under very specific conditions (for example, the walk and turn test is supposed to be performed on a flat, level and clear surface away from road lights or the headlights of the cruiser, and on a designated straight line, and these conditions are rarely followed in our experience). Additionally, arresting officers do not determine if the person has a medical condition which would prevent them from properly performing the tests, such as a recent concussion, vertigo, or even allergies, which can affect the person’s balance. Thus, there are numerous areas in which the result of Field Sobriety Tests can be attacked, and we leave no stone unturned in our efforts to challenge these findings.
Holding Law Enforcement Accountable for Proper Testing
The police must be thoroughly trained and maintain an ongoing knowledge of the procedures involved in field sobriety testing. Failure to comply with the specific requirements as detailed in the manuals they are each provided at the Academy leads to inaccurate results and can provide us evidence to challenge your DWI arrest. You need a seasoned legal advocate on your side investigating all aspects of the field sobriety testing.
At the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel, we pay strict attention to all the details. If any error was made in field sobriety testing, we will bring that to the attention of the prosecution or, if need be, the judge. Do not let a violation of your rights result in a life-changing DWI conviction.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with an experienced lawyer regarding Field Sobriety Tests, please contact us.