What Are Field Sobriety Tests?
Field sobriety tests are a series of physical and verbal tests intended to predict whether or not someone’s blood alcohol concentration or BAC will test over the legal limit.
The standard sobriety tests do not determine if someone is under the influence. That is a big misconception that the police, prosecutors, and the public have about what field tests are supposed to do. What’s worse is people often believe the police when they tell them they did well on their tests.
There are a lot of reasons for this. The biggest? A field sobriety test does not test what you think it does! Call us at (440) 471-7784 for more information.
The NHTSA, the organization that establishes the tests, recognizes only three types of tests. Two of these tests observe your ability to perform physical and verbal tasks while having your attention divided, the other test judges your physical clues to having a blood alcohol level over 0.08.
There are three field sobriety tests:
- Walk and turn test
- One-leg stand test
- HGN test (horizontal gaze nystagmus eye test)
Each of these tests has reliability issues. For instance, even if performed perfectly, the officer guesses wrong 48% of the time on the HGN eye test.
On the walk and turn and one-leg stand, the officer guesses wrong approximately 30% of the time. We say “guess” because that is what it is. Officers are not medical professionals. These tests guess what someone’s blood alcohol level is-and no one should be prosecuted because of these sobriety tests.
What Happens if You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Ohio?
This is a tough question. If you elect not to take the test, the police may try to arrest you right away or threaten to arrest you.
However, if you take the test and fail, you have just given the police (and a jury) the evidence necessary to convict you with a DUI.
Fortunately, as DUI attorneys, we have had success challenging the field sobriety tests and how they are administered.
However, it would be better for our clients if they did not have to challenge that evidence. We cannot advise you to do something that would lead to your arrest.
As a citizen, you have the choice between giving the police the evidence necessary to force you to conduct further testing, or you can refuse and be arrested.
If you are arrested, you might have to spend the night in jail; however, it is probably preferable to having a DUI conviction for life.
What Happens If I Fail the Field Sobriety Tests?
As former prosecutors, we know how to exclude the government’s evidence against you. An officer is only allowed to testify that you were intoxicated if they perform the field sobriety tests in substantial compliance with the NHTSA’s guidelines.
This might sound like a fairly simple thing to do, but you would be surprised how many police officers fail to properly administer the field tests.
An example of a common mistake that police officers make is the horizontal nystagmus test or eye test. All officers conducting the test are required to hold the pen approximately 12-15 inches from your face, but often the police officers will hold it far too close.
Another example is the walk-and-turn test. This is where you have to take nine steps in each direction. The police officer will forget to ask you if you understand the instructions.
These simple errors by the police might not seem important but when you consider that the field tests are supposed to be scientific tests these errors add up quickly.
If you take the test, and you really should not, you are providing the police officers with evidence of your intoxication.
If you fail the test the police now have probable cause to arrest you for DUI, and if the test was administered properly they probably have enough evidence to convict you as well.
That’s why it is so important to hire a Cleveland field sobriety test lawyer to protect you from these charges.
What If I Failed the Field Sobriety Tests But Refused the Breath Test?
We find that, often, friends give friends advice on a drinking and driving case. This can lead to fairly dangerous results in the courtroom.
One common scenario is a friend who says that it is okay to take the field sobriety tests but not the breath test. This advice may be good in most cases, but like anything else, it depends on the situation.
If you plan on refusing to take the breath test, you should plan on refusing to take any tests. If the police smell alcohol on your breath, they are probably going to arrest you anyway.
If you are not intoxicated or have only had a beer or two, you need to choose what you want to do with your case.
Call our Cleveland field sobriety test attorneys at (440) 471-7784 to offer you valuable defense from a DUI charge.
Why Was I Charged with OVI When I Passed the Field Sobriety Tests?
When you call our office for the first time regarding pending DUI charges, we always ask you to tell us:
- Why you were pulled over for DUI
- What you said to the officer when he was at your car
- How you think you did on the field sobriety tests
- The results of the breath test, if you took one
The majority of our clients feel they passed the tests, but the truth is that almost no one passes. Why? They are almost entirely subjective and can be easily manipulated by an officer asking inappropriate questions or inappropriately demonstrating the test.
For instance, the officer can imply that you should start the test NOW but then count it against you when you do not start the test in the way the “book” says you should.
Do I Need A DUI Attorney?
If you’re contemplating this question, chances are you’ve been caught in the crosshairs of a DUI or OVI situation in Cleveland.
Knowing your rights and understanding field sobriety tests, DUI laws, and criminal defense can be overwhelming. It’s like navigating a maze where one wrong turn could lead you into a lifetime of repercussions.
Let’s say you’re pulled over in Cleveland for driving erratically. The officer asks you to perform field sobriety tests such as the walk a straight line, walk and turn, one-leg stand, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
You’ve likely read or heard about the pitfalls and limitations of these tests. For instance, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test is prone to human error, and even if you think you’ve aced it, the officer’s subjective interpretation might say otherwise. An officer can mistakenly guess your intoxication level almost half the time with this test alone.
Now, let’s consider another layer of complexity—refusing the tests. On one hand, if you refuse, you’re likely to get arrested. On the other hand, if you participate and don’t do well, you’ve just handed over damning evidence to the prosecution. So, what do you do?
This is where a Cleveland defense attorney becomes indispensable. Our law firm offers a free consultation to assess your unique situation and develop a strategic approach for your defense.
Whether you took the breathalyzer test or were subjected to less reliable field sobriety tests like horizontal gaze nystagmus, a defense attorney can scrutinize the circumstances of your arrest and the test results.
The DUI lawyers in our law office will check if the sobriety tests were conducted in line with Ohio law and to see if the police officer made critical mistakes, like holding the pen too close during the nystagmus test or neglecting to clarify the walk-and-turn instructions.
When you’re dealing with something as serious as a DUI charge, even small errors in the common field sobriety test procedures can make a big difference in court.
The stakes are high in complex areas of drunk driving defense. You need legal representation. With the right attorney, you can challenge the integrity of the traffic stop and the field sobriety tests.
You can also explore other avenues for defense, such as questioning why you were pulled over in the first place or how the officer determined you were intoxicated.
Securing a Cleveland DUI defense attorney is crucial. You’re not just fighting a charge; you’re safeguarding your future.