If you have never been pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, the first time is usually rather frightening. Whether you are stone cold sober or you have been drinking enough to be over the legal limit, the simple fact that a law enforcement officer is questioning you can be nerve racking. If the officer does become convinced that you have been drinking you will likely be asked to step out of the vehicle and perform a series of field sobriety tests. These tests can be confusing and difficult to perform well even under ideal circumstances. Performing for an audience that has the power to send you to jail often makes them nearly impossible to perform well enough to pass.
Field sobriety tests, or FSTs, or used to test for the presence of alcohol in your system. FSTs are used to test things like coordination, memory, ability to follow instructions, and even your actual breath alcohol concentration, or BAC. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has officially approved three FSTs, collectively known as the “standardized tests”. The three standardized tests include:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus – HGN is an involuntary jerking, or twitching, of the eye as it moves to the side. When a person is under the influence of alcohol or some chemicals substances the “twitching” becomes exaggerated. To test for this, an officer usually holds a pen light, or other object, in front of your face and tells you to follow the object with your eyes only.
- Walk and turn – for this test, the suspect is told to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. After taking the steps, the suspect must turn on one foot and return in the same manner in the opposite direction. The examiner looks for eight indicators of impairment focusing on the suspects balance, coordination, and ability to follow instructions.
- One leg stand – this requires the suspect to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands (One thousand-one, one thousand-two, etc.) until told to put the foot down. The officer times the subject for 30 seconds. The officer looks for four indicators of impairment, again focusing on balance, coordination, and ability to follow instructions.
Along with the three standardized FSTs, an officer may choose to use other non-standardized tests such as asking you to recite the alphabet backwards or touching your finger to your nose. A portable breath test machine may also be used. The results of the portable breath test cannot be used in court but can be used to establish the probable cause needed to arrest your for driving under the influence, or DUI.
Although field sobriety tests are routinely used their efficacy is far from clear. Numerous factors that have nothing to do with the consumption of alcohol can impact your performance on a FST. If you have been charged with DUI in Nebraska and you question the results of the FSTs conducted during your stop, consult with the Nebraska DUI attorneys at Petersen Law Office. Contact the office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your case.
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