Ripley, TN- Tennessee’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security reports that there were 4,740 alcohol-involved traffic accidents across the state in 2014. While a decline over the past several years that is a still an alarming number of people who are drunk behind the wheel. When it comes to taking drunk drivers off Tennessee’s roads, law enforcement officers utilize field sobriety tests, so our team of DUI defense lawyers would like to discuss the reliability of these tests
After an officer has pulled you over, if they suspect you are intoxicated, they are going to ask you to submit to field sobriety tests. These tests include exercises that test a person’s balance, eye movements and their cognitive skills but how reliable are they?
There are three common tests performed on the roadside and you’ll probably be subjected to all and perhaps even more. Here are descriptions of these test and their accuracy according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration:
The NHTSA provides a brief description of the standardized tests officers use, but how reliable are these tests and can they be challenged by a DUI defense attorney.
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test- The horizontal gaze nystagmus is a jerking motion of the eye that is involuntary and happens as a person looks to either side when the eye is rotated at high peripheral angle. The motion occurs even when a person isn’t drunk, but when they are the movement is more exaggerated. Drunk drivers also have trouble following objects that move in front of their eyes.
When examining a drunken drivers eyes, a police officer will look for a few things. They will look to see: if a driver can follow objects with their eyes; if jerking motions of the eyes are distinct; and if they jerking motion is pronounced when they eyes are at a 45 degree angle. The NHTSA says HGN test is 88 percent accurate.
Walk and Turn and One Leg Test- Both of these tests are what is called “divided attention” tests and are very difficult for an intoxicated person to perform—most sober drivers have trouble with these tests. Such tests require the driver listen to and follow instructions and perform along perform simple physical movements.
For the Walk and Turn test, a suspected drunk driver will be asked to take several steps, heel to toe. Once those steps are complete, a suspect is then asked to turn on one foot an repeat the steps. The point is to see if a suspect can maintain their balance, can walk a straight line and whether they are able to make the one-foot turn without losing their balance.
The One Leg Test is pretty straightforward, a suspect is asked to stand on one leg and count aloud. When drivers are intoxicated, it can be very difficult for them to stand on one leg for a prolonged period of time. The NHTSA estimates that the walk-and-turn test has a 79 person rate of accuracy and the one-leg stand has 83 percent rate of accuracy.
If you performed poorly on any of these tests, we encourage you to retain a DUI lawyer in Ripley, Tennessee to work in your defense and help you avoid conviction. USAttorneys can connect you with a lawyer today.