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There are three standardized field sobriety tests that are used by law enforcement agencies across the nation; these are a group of standardized tests that help the officer come to the conclusion that you may or may not be impaired by drugs or alcohol:
In Florida the first test the officer will normally conduct to determine impairment is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, or HGN test. It may also be referred to as the pen test. Police officers will ask the suspect to look at an object (usually a pen). While the object is moved back and forth, the officer is watching the eyes of the suspect looking for a lack of smooth pursuit. If nystagmus can be detected, the suspect will likely be arrested. Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eyes. This is a very scientific test that requires specialized training which the majority of police officers in Orange County and Seminole County do not have. As a result the officer would not be allowed to speak about the levels of nystagmus but only whether or not you were able to follow directions during this test.
As a former public defender and state prosecutor who has defended and prosecuted hundreds of drunk driving cases, Orlando DUI defense lawyer Corey Cohen understands how the prosecution thinks. His team of defense attorneys has the experience and training in DUI cases necessary to give your case a competitive advantage.
Keep in mind that the HGN test is not 100 percent reliable. Many other conditions may cause nystagmus including, stroke, brain injuries, nicotine and many other factors. To learn more about HGN, contact our law firm.
The next test is the walk and turn.
The walk-and-turn test is categorized as a divided attention test. This means that you must listen to and follow instructions while performing a physical task.
To perform the test, you must take nine heel-to-toe steps forward, pivot and then take nine heel-to-toe steps back. While performing this test, you are asked to count out loud the number of steps that you are taking.
During the test, the police officer is looking for signs or clues that you are under the influence. The officer is also marking off points every time he or she feels you have made a mistake. These mistakes are not touching heal to toe, not following the officer’s directions, missing steps, taking an incorrect number of steps, having difficulty maintaining balance, turning incorrectly, and failing to count your steps out loud. If you have to use your arms to balance or you do not complete the test, the officer will count this as a mistake and take off points.
If you missed two or more of these indicators that the officer is looking for you may be arrested for DUI.
The main problem with this test is that it is subjective, meaning the officer decides whether or not you pass the test. Add to this the fact that the officer already suspects that you are impaired, so it is usually unlikely that you will perform the test to the officer’s satisfaction.
There are also physical problems that may hinder your performance. Weight issues, leg problems and fatigue can make it difficult to pass this field sobriety test.
Finally there is the one-leg stand.
To administer the one-leg stand test, the officer must first make sure that the conditions are ideal for testing. The test must be given in a safe area where the driver will not be hurt if he or she falls. The surface must be hard, flat and dry. If the driver is over the age of 65, has a physical impairment or is more than 50 pounds overweight, the test should not be administered.
You will find that many officers ignore these warning and administer the tests anyhow, which will normally result in a false reading. Any existing injury you may have suffered no matter how long ago could also impact the reliability of these tests.
Once the officer feels the testing site is suitable, the officer must explain and demonstrate the test instructions. In order to perform the test, the driver must raise one foot six inches off of the ground while keeping his or her arms at the side. Once in this position, he or she must then count out loud to 30 before putting his or her foot back down.
During the test, the officer will observe the driver’s performance. The officer is looking for specific clues that the driver is intoxicated such as: excessive swaying, using arms to balance, hopping to maintain balance, putting his or her foot down or inability to complete the test. If the driver shows two or more of these behaviors, this is considered a test failure, and the driver may be arrested for driving under the influence.
Legal counsel is essential if you hope to challenge the results of a field sobriety test. Call The Law Office of Corey I. Cohen & Associates, at 407-246-0066 or you may email the firm through this website.