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Kentucky Criminal Defense: Understanding Field Sobriety Tests

On behalf of Musselwhite, Meinhart & Staples posted in criminal defense on Monday, May 28, 2018.

Anyone suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the state of Kentucky is likely to be stopped by police and asked to perform a few tests. Called field sobriety tests, these look at a number of things including physical ability and mental clarity. What are the standard field sobriety tests, are they accurate and is it possible to question test results as part of a criminal defense?

There are currently only three tests that are deemed standard field sobriety tests according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. These are the one-leg stand, the horizontal gaze nystagmus and the walk and turn. When asked to perform the one-leg stand, one will have to balance on one leg while holding the opposite foot off the ground for a set period of time. During that time, the suspected intoxicated driver is not able to do anything to help maintain balance. Failure to follow directions or maintain balance will result in an automatic fail.

The horizontal gaze nystagmus looks at a person’s eye movement. When rolled to a certain angle, a person’s eyes will jerk involuntarily. If an individual is impaired, this jerking motion is said to be exaggerated. If an officer notices an exaggerated movement or if one fails to follow directions, this may result in an automatic fail.

Finally, the walk and turn. In this test, one will be asked to walk a straight line, heel-to-toe, without using his or her arms for balance. Once he or she has taken the number of steps indicated by the officer administering the test, he or she must turn around on one foot and walk back to the starting point in the same fashion. Failure to follow directions and failure to maintain balance may result in test failure.

On average, field sobriety tests are said to be accurate most of the time. The big problem with these tests is that they are subjective in nature and subject to human error. Kentucky residents who are facing DUI charged due to failed sobriety tests can take steps to fight the results in court. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help with that.

Source: FindLaw, “Field Sobriety Tests“, Accessed on April 26, 2018

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