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How field sobriety tests work

On Behalf of | Aug 25, 2020 | Drunk Driving

Police officers in Texas routinely pull over drivers under the suspicion of driving while influenced by drugs or alcohol. Erratic driving, speeding and the inability to stay inside a lane may raise alarms with police officers. Even if someone is guilty of a moving violation, this does not mean they’re under the influence. A police officer will take additional steps before charging someone with a DUI. A field sobriety test is one such step.

Field sobriety tests generally involve a three-pronged examination of attention, coordination and balance. Two portions of a typical test, a one-legged stand test and a walk-and-turn test, provide information based on the driver’s physical actions. An impaired person might have significant trouble with these tests. Intoxification could greatly undermine the balance and coordination necessary to perform them.

The third test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, intends to uncover an eyeball twitch. The nystagmus twitch may increase due to alcohol intake, so this is one of the three evaluations. That said, other factors can cause such a twitch. Alcohol-induced twitches may be more pronounced, though.

If someone fails these tests, then they are likely under the influence. That said, there are other reasons why someone could fail the test. Perhaps the person takes a particular medication. The prescription might cause balance, coordination, and other problems. Unfortunately, failing the field sobriety test may lead to an immediate arrest. The suspect would then have to prove they were not intoxicated in court. Interestingly, an officer will usually ask the subject if there is any reason why they failed the test. The response would become part of the official arrest record.

A DUI arrest doesn’t automatically mean a DUI conviction. A criminal law attorney could help a client mount a defense against false charges. The lawyer may also assist with plea bargains or sentencing negotiations if the client was under the influence.