Field Sobriety TestsProven Success In & Out of Court
Knoxville Field Sobriety Tests Attorney
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Were you pulled over on suspicion of a DUI? Typically, police officers administer testing methods, or field sobriety tests, to help determine if a driver was operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The problem with these field sobriety tests is that they are often inaccurate, and in many cases, they are too difficult for even a sober person to pass.
What Are Field Sobriety Tests?
In most cases, law enforcement utilizes three field sobriety tests to decide whether a suspected DUI driver is guilty. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) describes these standardized tests in further detail:
Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test: This is an involuntary jerking of the eyeball which occurs naturally as the eyes gaze to the side. Under normal circumstances, nystagmus occurs when the eyes are rotated at high peripheral angles. However, when a person is impaired by alcohol, nystagmus is exaggerated and may occur at lesser angles. An alcohol-impaired person will often have difficulty smoothly tracking a moving object.
In the HGN test, the officer observes a suspect following a slowly moving object, such as a pen or small flashlight, horizontally with their eyes. The examiner looks for three indicators of impairment:
- if the eye cannot follow a moving object smoothly
- if jerking is distinct when the eye is at maximum deviation
- if the angle of onset of jerking is within 45 degrees of center
Walk-and-turn test: The subject is directed to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. After taking the steps, the suspect must turn on one foot and return in the same manner in the opposite direction. The officer checks if the suspect:
- cannot keep balance while listening to the instructions
- begins before the instructions are finished
- stops while walking to regain balance
- does not touch heel-to-toe
- uses arms to balance
- loses balance while turning
- takes an incorrect number of steps
One-leg stand test: In the one-leg stand test, the suspect is instructed to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands (one thousand-one, one thousand-two, etc.) until told to put the foot down. The officer times the subject for 30 seconds. During the timed assessment, the officer will be looking for four indicators of impairment, including:
- swaying while balancing
- using arms to balance
- hopping to maintain balance
- putting the foot down
The walk-and-turn and one-leg stand test are divided attention tests, which means suspects are required to listen to—and follow—instructions while performing simple physical movements. If they fail to do so, they may be deemed intoxicated.
Police officers may be on the lookout for other DUI clues that could help them determine your sobriety at this time as well. Further, you may be forced to take non-standardized tests, such as:
- Reciting the alphabet
- Counting backwards
- Closing your eyes and touching your nose with your finger
What Happens if I Am Sober & Fail a Field Sobriety Test?
Field sobriety tests can be physically and mentally challenging even when sober. Officers examine your ability to follow their instructions and complete sobriety tests successfully, meaning if they speak too quickly or mumble a portion of the instructions, you may be guilty of failing a field sobriety test even if it wasn’t your fault.
There are other factors that could interfere with successfully passing a field sobriety test. For example, you may be driving on prescribed medications that you didn’t realize impair your senses. Or you may be standing on gravel or a rough surface which can prevent you passing the one-leg stand test. It is also likely that you are recovering from an injury and can’t perform the walk-and-turn test properly. Whatever the case may be, our qualified Knoxville field sobriety tests lawyer is prepared to defend you.
Defenses to Field Sobriety Test Failure in Tennessee
We will strategize hard-hitting defenses to help overcome your accusation. Our team understands that these tests can be quite difficult to pass whether you’re intoxicated or not. We will work to convince a judge that you did NOT fail a field sobriety test because you were under the influence, but rather due to one of the following reasons:
- Faulty explanation of testing instructions
- Weather conditions
- Physical or mental inhibitions
- Poor road conditions
- Administration of non-approved testing methods