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When a police officer suspects that a driver is intoxicated, they will pull the person over. To determine if their suspicion is accurate, they may request the driver to perform a field sobriety test. Law enforcement is obligated to follow certain procedures and the equipment they use to determine sobriety is also held to certain standards. Sometimes, officers as well as the testing equipment introduces errors, inconsistencies, and other problems that results in less than accurate results. A knowledgeable DUI lawyer is familiar with the issues that are often in question and will know how to build a strong case based on those issues.

Field Sobriety Tests

The officer has leeway to arrest the driver for DUI even if the driver doesn’t fail the field sobriety test, if they feel they have probable cause to do so. In many states, the field sobriety test is voluntary, but not taking the test may earn you an automatic fail and you will be arrested for DUI.

Unless a police dash cam is involved, officers do not videotape field sobriety tests. Later this can come into play if there are questions about whether or not the driver was actually under the influence when driving. One of the main issues is, did the officer have probable cause to pull the driver over, request a field test, and then take them into custody for DUI. Some of the most common field sobriety tests given to drivers include:

  • Nystagmus test (otherwise know as the horizontal gaze test) which involves the officer using a pen or finger to horizontally track the driver’s gaze. People who are intoxicated may not be able to scan horizontally without eye twitches.
  • Finger-to-nose coordination. In addition to checking the driver’s coordination, which is often affected by alcohol or other substances, the officer is checking the driver’s ability to follow directions. The inability to do the latter is another indicator of intoxication.
  • Balance on one leg for a period of time, usually 30 seconds.
  • Head tilt.
  • Walking in a straight line with the heel of one foot touching the toe of the other shoe with each step. The driver may also be asked to follow other instructions such as turning or moving in another direction.
  • Counting backwards.
  • Reciting the alphabet backwards.
  • Breathalyzer test. Not all law enforcement agencies use this test in the field. Some agencies may use this test at the police station after the officer arrested the driver for DUI.

If you were arrested for a DUI, contact a DUI lawyer to know more about how they can protect your rights such as the DUI lawyer Peoria IL locals trust.

Thanks to authors at Smith & Weer P.C. for their insight into Criminal Law.



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