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Challenging Field Sobriety Tests

Posted by Tilem & Associates, PC || 28-Mar-2016

Being pulled over by law enforcement can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you are suspected of driving while intoxicated. In order to determine if you have been drinking or not, a police officer may administer a series of field sobriety tests.

The tests include the following:

  • One-Leg Stand (OLS) – An individual must stand with one foot approximately six inches above the ground while counting for 30 seconds. Officers are looking for indicators of intoxication, such as hopping, swaying, using arms to maintain balance or placing the foot down prior before instructed to do so.

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) – An officer moves a small flashlight or pen in front of an individual’s eyes back and forth, looking for an indication of any difficulty demonstrated by the person tracking the object with their eyes. Telltale signs include jerking of the eyes.

  • Walk-And-Turn (WAT) – An individual must take nine steps in a straight line, in heal-to-toe fashion, then turn on one foot and return in the same sequence. Officers are looking for any struggle with balance, using arms to balance and stepping off the straight line.

It’s important to understand that field sobriety tests in New York are not mandatory and can be refused by the suspected individual. These tests are subjective and do not determine a clear way to pass or fail someone who is suspected for driving while intoxicated.

For example, the HGN tests can be affected by a person’s age and psychiatric condition, since those who are older or possess ailments may find tracking an object with their eyes to be difficult. In regards to the WAT test and OLS test, those who have leg, back or inner ear problems already have difficulty balancing.

If these sobriety tests are administered inadequately and incorrectly by police officers, the results may be thrown out and perhaps the charges dropped. However, a refusal can be used as evidence in trial. That’s why it is imperative to seek legal representation from an experienced and trustworthy criminal defense lawyer.

For more information, contact our White Plains DWI attorney to schedule your free consultation today.