Drunk Driving Part 3: What you should know about field sobriety tests
What to know about getting pulled over for a suspected DUI
In part 2 of this series, we talked about what symptoms and behaviors a police officer looks for in a driver he believes to be DUI. Sometimes, if they find nothing out of the ordinary, they’ll simply let you drive away with a warning or a ticket.
However, as soon as the officer mentions that he or she detects the presence of alcohol and asks you to step out of your car to perform a field sobriety test, there are a few things you need to know.
Do you have to submit to a field sobriety test in the first place?
In the state of Ohio, you have the right to refuse to submit to a field sobriety test. You are only required to give the officer your personal information. The officer might tell you that refusal to take the field sobriety test can be used against you in court, but an experienced drunk driving lawyer will know how to deal with your response.
Just remember, if you decide to refuse submitting to a field sobriety test, make sure to be extremely calm and polite to the officer. Rudeness, anger, and impatience can be interpreted as aggressive behavior, and will give the officer more cause to potentially arrest you.
If the officer asks why you are refusing to submit to the field sobriety test, state calmly and politely that you would like to discuss the tests with a DUI lawyer before complying.
What kinds of tests will the officer ask you to perform?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has developed three tests that officers will use during a field sobriety test to help them determine whether or not you are intoxicated. The tests are as follows:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN test)– You may have seen this test portrayed in movies or if you’ve ever seen a DUI arrest made on COPS. Typically, the officer will hold up a pencil or single finger and watch your eyes for involuntary jerking as they move back and forth.
- Walk and Turn (WAT test) – In this test, the officer will instruct you to walk heel-to-toe in a straight line, turn, and have you walk back. The officer may ask you questions while you’re walking to see if you can do more than one thing at a time.
- One Leg Stand (OLS test) – Just like it sounds, this test will require you to stand on one leg for 30 seconds. The officer will use this test to see if you can maintain balance.
In addition to these tests, an officer may also ask you to take a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (or PAS) test using a portable breathalyzer (PBT). This test is not the chemical breath test that you are required to take under the implied consent law, so you may also decline this test as well. And it’s generally not admissible in court against you.
What happens to you after the tests?
Although NHTSA has created a scoring system for these tests, it’s difficult for an individual to determine if they passed or failed. Often those who think they passed are given failing marks by the police. It can seem like an arbitrary decision made by the administering officer. If the officer believes you are sober or below the legal limit, you may be released with a warning or a ticket in response to the initial reason he pulled you over.
However, if the officer determines that you are intoxicated, you may be placed under arrest. You will be taken to the station and asked to perform a chemical breath test. If you refuse to take this test, your license will be automatically suspended for one year. If you take the test and blow above the Ohio legal limit of .08, you will be officially charged with a DUI/OVI.
How a Columbus DUI lawyer can help
If a police officer slightly deviates from the standard testing procedures outlined in a field sobriety test, it can potentially skew the results. If this is the case, the results may no longer be valid and can be dismissed as incriminating evidence against you.
Yavitch & Palmer specializes in DUI and OVI cases. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, contact one of Yavitch & Palmer’s Columbus DUI lawyers today. They will evaluate every detail of your case and work to get your drunk driving charges minimized, or even completely thrown out.