Talk to Keegan Law About OUI: Field Sobriety Tests

Information from a Boston DUI Lawyer

When it comes to drunk driving, there are very specific procedures that a highway patrol officer must follow in order to make a legal OUI arrest. This is applies to:

  • The reasons why they pull a motorist over
  • Their behavior during the investigation process
  • The administration of field sobriety tests and blood/breath tests

Understanding Field Sobriety Tests

Before an officer can arrest a motorist’s for operating under the influence, he or she must first establish beyond reasonable doubt that the driver is indeed intoxicated. The main way of determining this is by having the motorist perform the three Standard Field Sobriety Tests. Each of these is designed to test a person’s motor skills and their ability to perform actions while their attention is divided.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
The first test is known as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN). In this test, the driver must hold their head still and follow a moving object (usually the officer’s finger) with their eyes as it is passed back and forth in front of their face. If their eyes twitch or spasm when they look to the far right or left (a phenomenon known as nystagmus), the person may be intoxicated. Failure of this test justifies an OUI arrest.

The second test is the Walk-and-Turn (WAT). The suspect must be able to listen to the officer as he or she instructs the motorist to “walk the line,” count to a certain number of steps out loud, turn, and repeat the action. If the suspect has trouble remembering the directions, counts incorrectly, or loses their balance, they may fail the test and be subject to an OUI arrest.

One-Leg Stand
The third test, known as the One-Leg Stand (OLS), requires the driver to stand on one leg and count to a number-usually 30-in increments of one thousand. If they cannot keep their balance or count in order, they fail the test and may be subject to arrest.

Do I have to submit to a field sobriety test?

Field sobriety tests are voluntary, even though the police officer will not likely say this. If you decline the field sobriety test, the officer may arrest you and require you to submit to the chemical test. You are required by law, however, to submit to the chemical testing.

Refusing to take a field sobriety test does not mean that you automatically admit guilt, but it makes you seem suspicious. You may be penalized for refusing to submit to the field sobriety test based on the specific jurisdiction. Learn more by speaking with our firm!

How do I beat a field sobriety test?

If you decide to submit to the field sobriety test, you should keep the following steps and actions in mind. You do not want to incriminate yourself unnecessarily.

1. Understand that an arrest is the result of three phases: Initial observation of the vehicle in motion, observation of the driver, and the physical sobriety test

2. Get out of the car with slow and deliberate movements

3. Follow the officer’s directions on the field sobriety test

4. Obey and respect the officer, but still remember your rights

5. If you are under arrest, do not resist

Defense Against Faulty SFST Results

If an officer is investigating a suspected drunk driver, the motorist only needs to fail one of the three SFSTs to be legally arrested. However, there are other factors that can affect a person’s ability to pass the tests. Vertigo and other such inner-ear problems can affect a person’s balance and cause them to fail the WAT or OLS tests. Certain vision problems can affect the HGN test results. Also, prescription and over-the-counter medications can affect all three tests. If you believe you failed an SFST due to any of these, a Boston OUI attorney could help you build a strong defense and fight against your OUI due to police misconduct.

Find an OUI Attorney in Boston

When going up against the word of a police officer, you need a lawyer who knows how officers think. At Keegan Law, both of our main attorneys are former officers and know exactly what is and is not legal regarding your OUI arrest. Consult with a member of our team today to learn if our aggressive and relentless defense is right for you. By retaining a lawyer from our firm and telling them every detail surrounding your OUI arrest, we may be able to help you uncover a defense strategy. Contact an OUI lawyer from our firm today through our free case evaluation to get started.