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Unfair Field Sobriety Tests

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UNFAIR FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS

Sobriety tests are administered by law enforcement to determine whether or not a person is intoxicated, either publicly or during a traffic stop for a potential DWI or DUI. There are a variety of tests officers may use to test for intoxication, but the most common field sobriety tests are the single leg stand and balance test, the walk and turn test, and the eye test.

Each test is fairly self-explanatory, though the eye test is a bit more complicated. Unfortunately, these tests may very well be the difference between someone being charged with a DWI or DUI, and they are not necessarily the most reliable testing method for a number of reasons.

It is our opinion that these field sobriety tests are often unfair, which can lead to unjust accusations and charges for the people participating in the tests. From the demanding physical nature of the tests, to the potentially subjective reading of results, we believe that these tests present a biased and unfair means of determining intoxication.

Unfair in Nature

Most of these tests rely on a person’s physical capacity, and while a person might be fit to drive, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re equipped and ready to handle an unexpected physical test of balance and coordination.

Whether it’s age, medical conditions, or even simply nervousness in the face of police presence, there are numerous ways that these tests might return a false positive for intoxication. In the moment, and at the discretion of any given police officer, you may be subjected to tests without any warning or explanation of how the officer will determine the results of your test.

While these tests are a mainstay of the standard roadside sobriety examinations, it is our opinion that they require a more accurate and complete scrutiny before a person faces a dire charge, such as DWI or DUI. As experienced Houston DWI lawyers, we believe every case deserves a fair trial, starting at the point a person is actually tested and charged for any given crime.

Unfair Field Sobriety Tests: Body Condition Can Change How You Perform

One of the main reasons we object to these tests as a gold standard for intoxication testing is because it relies heavily on a person’s physical fitness. Additionally, there is often little regard afforded to the circumstances of the individual. 

For example, if someone is driving home after a late shift, tired and worn out from a physically demanding job, and they’re suddenly asked by a demanding authority to step out of their care and perform a series of balance tests? They may not perform as expected, even if they are in otherwise perfect health.

Fatigue, age, weight, pre-existing injuries and other conditions can all affect your ability to perform these tests. Unfortunately, due to common biases, someone stopping you and testing you for intoxication may be more inclined to see any failure as surefire evidence of intoxication, without considering the potential underlying effects someone’s personal situation may have on the test.

While we trust that officers and law enforcement are trained how to perform these tests, the test itself does not account for or involve officer training to identify a person’s overall physical condition. That is to say, officers can make cursory determinations at their discretion based on these tests, but without significant healthcare training, there’s no real way to determine whether or not these tests and their results are inherently tied to intoxication or some other factor.

It’s Their Opinion

Finally, these tests rely heavily on the administering offer’s personal discretion. That means, essentially, that regardless of training and results, it’s up to the officer to decide if a person is intoxicated in the moment.

The subjective nature of these tests is wildly unreliable — the consequences of an arrest or potential charge for DWI or DUI are incredibly severe, as well. Potentially subjecting a person to such harsh punishments, legal proceedings, or arrest based on what is essentially an opinion is inappropriate at best, and inhumane at worst.

Still, without a more comprehensive and complete approach to field sobriety testing, it’s likely that many more will face unjust charges or unsubstantiated claims of intoxication. That’s why our team of professional Houston DWI defense attorneys is here to defend citizens facing unjust charges based on unreliable methods.

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

Field Sobriety Test: The Walk and Turn

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The Walk and Turn Field Sobriety Test

The Walk and Turn Field Sobriety Test – Law enforcement has three tests that they depend upon to build a case against a driver that they suspect has been driving while intoxicated. 

The first one is the Eye Test, the second is the One-Leg Stand and the third test is called the Walk and Turn.

In the Walk and Turn test, the officer puts a person in a position to get instructions and asks them to put one foot in front of the other on a line. 

That line could be an imaginary line that only the officer can see. 

Then they ask the person to walk– heel to toe keeping arms by their side—nine steps up the line and nine steps back.  

Then they ask the person to count out loud and not stop walking once they have started the test.

Once the officer puts person in this instruction position, he becomes long-winded as he explains. 

Most people will step out of position to be comfortable while getting these instructions, but the officer interprets this move as clue towards being intoxicated. 

Then, in walking the line, if the person happens to have a space between his or her feet, they have just failed the test.  

If his arm goes out just six inches, he has just failed that test.  

The driver needs only two of the officer’s so-called clues to fail the test.

Needless to say, the Walk and Turn is an incredibly inaccurate test and no one needs to take a test that can incriminate them so falsely. 

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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Field Sobriety Test: The Eye Test

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FIELD SOBRIETY TEST:
THE EYE TEST

Field sobriety tests are one of the methods used by law enforcement to determine sobriety in suspected DWI or DUI cases. Understanding how this methodology works, what law enforcement considers a significant sign of intoxication, and how this might be applied to a DWI case is vital for building a proper defense.

Today, we’ll be looking at “The Eye Test”, also known as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. It is one of three standardized field sobriety tests created by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), designed to identify drivers who have been operating their vehicles while under the influence.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is the lateral jerking movement of the eyeballs, akin to the movement of your eyes when you look sharply to the far sides of your peripheral vision. The term “nystagmus” is the technical term for rapid involuntary movement of the eyes, which can occur when there is some form of irregularity in the inner ear system of the person or driver in question.One stimuli that can cause this movement is alcohol, as it hinders your ability to fully control the mobility of your eye muscles. 

“The eye test” is conducted by a police officer, and is administered by the officer moving his penlight in front of the driver’s eyes about a foot away from a person’s face. The officer will ask the driver to follow the light with their eyes, and the officer will examine the pupils of the driver to see the angle at which their eyes are twitching. If the officer notices that your eyes twitch at a certain angle, this is considered a sign of potential intoxication or high blood alcohol level.

Accuracy of the DWI Eye Test

Compared to other standard or stereotypical sobriety tests, such as the one leg stand test, or the walk and turn test, the eye test is fairly new and tends to be more accurate.

Where the balance related tests are often designed to have a sort of pass-fail reading, which can be thrown off by a much wider range of issues beyond intoxication, the eye test is designed to actually examine involuntary bodily spasms that may be brought about by excess alcohol in the body.

Apart from having serious eye issues, there is no reason that a person who is reasonably healthy and otherwise capable of driving should have Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus at all. The stimuli that is measured by the eye test makes it one of the most accurate field sobriety tests, with an approximate 77 percent accuracing rating in detecting blood alcohol contents that exceed the legal limit.

Of course, one issue remains. In spite of the perceived accuracy rating, the administration of the eye test still relies on the discretion of the police officers administering the test. That means that while the test itself is fairly accurate, the officer performing the test may read the results differently on a case by case basis.

Why Is This A Problem?


In most cases, officers will be trained to perform these field sobriety tests in order to obtain the most accurate results possible. However, human error is always a factor, and there are plenty of circumstances that can impact the reading of a test that relies on such slight physical responses.

When facing a potential DWI charge, the impact on a person’s life is immense, from the potential fines and punitive measures to the loss of your driver’s license. Relying on a test that may provide unreliable results due to human error isn’t always a comforting experience for people whose future hangs on the results. That’s why there is an increasing and ongoing need for skilled Houston DWI lawyers to protect those wrongfully accused.

If you or a loved one has been subjected to a field sobriety test, taken the eye test, or have any general questions about field sobriety testing, eye tests, or other DWI detection processes, contact Trichter & LeGrand today for a free consultation. You can speak with one of our expert criminal defense attorneys in Houston, and learn all about the various sobriety tests and other DWI detection methods that may be used and defended against in court.

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Attorneys on-call 24/7. Form Submissions have a fast response time. The use of this form does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

Field Sobriety Test: The One Leg Stand

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FIELD SOBRIETY TEST:
THE ONE LEG STAND

The “one leg stand” test is one of three standardized field sobriety tests implemented and sanctioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

The test is designed to measure the body’s response and reflex to certain stimuli that are believed to manifest as a result of consuming alcoholic beverages.

Police officers administer this test by having a driver stand on one foot approximately six inches above the ground with their toe pointed forward. 

Then, the police officer asks the driver to keep their foot off the ground and count by one-thousands for 30 seconds. 

While doing this, the driver must keep their arms to their side and look down at their foot.

The way that this test is administered is innately flawed as many people who are sober are unable to keep proper balance when on one foot. 

The requested actions that make up the “one leg stand” are counter-intuitive to creating balance. 

This leads to many improper readings and could trigger an unwarranted DUI, requiring the necessity of a Houston DWI lawyer.

While you are performing the test, the administering police officer will be observing your movements to determine whether your are exhibiting any loss of balance considered to be indicative of impairment. 

The police officer will also be keeping an eye for specific indicators that are also considered to be indicative of impairment; these movements include but are not limited to:

  • Swaying while attempting to maintain balance
  • Constant hopping while trying to maintain your balance
  • Putting your foot down before the test is completed
  • Using your arms in any way to maintain your balance

The Problem with the One Leg Stand Test

The problem with the indicators used in the one leg stand test, are that they are perfectly normal reflexes when attempting to maintain balance even without the consumption of alcohol. 

It is this very reason that the test is seen as innately flawed and is designed to make people fail. 

The test also fails to accommodate for those who are elderly, have back or leg problems, people who are overweight or people who generally have poor balance.

Moreover, there is no way to really “pass” this test. 

Police officers generally overestimate the level of intoxication for drivers who voluntarily submit to the field sobriety test. 

Due to the fact that a driver is pulled over and made to prove their sober nature to a police officer, it is a given than the ordinary individual will be extremely nervous.

The fact that you don’t know how long the test is going to be is going to cause a driver to be even more nervous. 

A nervous feeling is usually accompanied by many physical manifestations such as shaking, loss of balance and sweating, all potential red flags to a police officer.

If you or a loved one has been subjected to a field sobriety test and have taken the one leg stand test, or you have any general questions about field sobriety tests, contact Trichter & LeGrand today for a free consultation with one of our expert DWI attorneys in Houston, TX.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR CASE

You're Just One Step Away!

Attorneys on-call 24/7. Form Submissions have a fast response time. The use of this form does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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