Columbia Field Sobriety Tests

While receiving an accusation for driving under the influence can be a daunting situation, know that you do not have to face it alone. A skilled DUI attorney with knowledge of Columbia field sobriety tests can help show a jury how a test’s results are not always a perfect indicator of impairment in a driver. Read on to learn more about the different types of Columbia field sobriety tests, as well as the ways a dedicated defense attorney could offer you their assistance today.

Standardization by the NHTSA

The Columbia field sobriety tests used by officers to determine one’s level of intoxication can be categorized by whether they are standardized or non-standardized. Standardized field sobriety tests are put together by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and technically have a higher reliability for observing indicators of a driver’s impairment. The three standardized tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk and turn, and the one-leg stand.

On the other hand, non-standardized field sobriety tests have much less validity because they do not have the proper research behind them to show their legitimacy. However, even the researched are not perfect. A large amount of the research carried out many years ago was quite flawed, and an experienced DUI attorney will potentially be able to show these factors.

How Law Enforcement Uses Field Sobriety Tests

Police officers generally do not inform the person that they have a right to refuse to perform the field sobriety tests. They also go through the instructions fairly quickly. When there are many instructions and people are nervous, particularly when they have been pulled over by a police officer and they had a few alcoholic drinks, whether it is beer, liquor, or wine, they are going to be extremely nervous. When they go through instructions very quickly and someone does not perform the tests to the exact instructions, the officer will rattle off each little infraction and say that all those are clues of impairment. The buzz word they like to use is ‘clues of impairment’.

Refusing to Perform Field Sobriety Tests

Many people do not know that they can refuse to perform Columbia field sobriety tests, without penalty. The implied consent laws in South Carolina do not apply to field sobriety tests, they only apply to breath tests and urine tests. They do not apply to any field sobriety tests. The person has an absolute right to refuse to perform a field sobriety test.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test involves the officer holding a pen in front of an individual’s face with a light, traveling side by side in a lateral movement. The officer is looking for involuntary twitching of the eyeball. However, many believe that this test is an improper indicator for impairment because there are at least 38 other known causes of nystagmus. In addition, officers rarely perform the test properly. The NHTSA has a manual with very specific instructions regarding how the test should be administered, and failure to comply with these steps could lead to the results of this test being dismissed as evidence.

Walk and Turn

Like many of the Columbia field sobriety tests, the walk and turn test has a set of very specific instructions. The individual must hold their hands side by side, and walk heel to toe for nine steps. They then have to take a special turn where one foot stays in place while the other goes around in a 180-degree turn. The driver then must walk heel to toe nine steps back to where they were. An officer may go through these instructions quickly without giving an individual enough time to absorb every single rule. If the driver does not perform the test perfectly by failing to place their toe directly to their heel, the officer will use that as an indicator of impairment.

One-Leg Stand

The one-leg stand requires an individual to keep their hands by their side while lifting one leg six inches above the ground. If the driver puts their hands up to balance themselves, the officer will note that as an indicator of impairment. The driver must also count upwards until the officer tells them to stop. There is no specifically-set duration of time for this test to take place within.

The Right to Refuse

If a driver does not wish to perform a field sobriety test, it is significant to know that they have the right to politely decline to take them. While this may affect an officer’s decision to arrest the individual, this can be important as the officer will not be able to use the results of any tests against them in court. Filed sobriety tests often weigh heavily with a jury, and can have a great impact on a case’s ultimate outcome.

If you wish to fight against the results of your Columbia field sobriety tests, reach out to a professional defense attorney today for representation.