Field Sobriety Tests in Georgia
Savannah Field Sobriety Tests Lawyers
The attorneys at Schneider Lerch Bronston, LLC have tried many cases where the results and reliability of the Georgia field sobriety tests used in a DUI arrest have been challenged. When a driver is pulled over and is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol in Georgia, police officers will routinely administer a test or series of tests to determine if the driver is impaired. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed a battery of three tests called the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) which most law enforcement agencies now use.
Schneider Lerch Bronston, LLC can challenge the validity of these tests in your DUI case. You can count on us to gather extensive evidence during a thorough investigation and build a strong defense on your behalf.
The SFST consists of tests that include the following:
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
The HGN test measures the responses of a subject's eyes as they follow an object – such as a pen held by the police officer – from side to side. The eyes will involuntarily jerk naturally as they follow an object from side to side, but when impaired by alcohol, this jerking movement is exaggerated. The eyes of a person who is not impaired by alcohol will follow the object from side to side smoothly back and forth with minimal jerking movement. However, the person who is impaired by alcohol will have trouble following the object smoothly from side to side. If an officer observes this and other slight irregularities, it is assumed that the subject is impaired by alcohol.
One Leg Stand (OLS)
The one-leg stand test measures a subject's balance. The officer will ask the subject to stand with one foot on the ground and one foot off the ground approximately 6 inches. While the foot is in the air, the subject is asked to count aloud by thousands until they are instructed to put the foot back down. While timing the subject for 30 seconds, the officer will look for four indicators in the subject--their body swaying from side to side, using their arms to keep their balance, hopping to maintain their balance, and putting their foot down before being instructed to do so. If the subject exhibits two of the four indicators, it is assumed that the subject is impaired by alcohol.
Walk & Turn (WAT)
The walk-and-turn test requires a subject to listen to and follow some simple instructions while performing a simple physical movement. It is based on the notion that impaired persons have trouble listening to spoken instructions and performing physical movement at the same time. The subject is usually asked to walk for nine steps, heel to toe, in a straight line, turning on foot, and returning to the beginning in the same way. If the subject makes mistakes – such as starting before being instructed to do so, stopping to regain their balance, stepping out of the straight line, making an incorrect number of steps, improperly turning around, or failing to touch their heel to their toe – they are considered impaired.
Other tests include the:
- Preliminary Breath Test (PBT): This is the initial test to gauge whether a driver’s blood-alcohol limit is at or above the legal limit of .08%.
- Romberg Test: The driver will be asked to count to 30 with head back and eyes closed
- Lack of Convergence Test: This test involves the officer holding an object (i.e., a pen) 12-15 inches from the driver and asking them to track its movements.
On account of all the tragedies related to driving under the influence, the government has tried to crack down much harder on cases where drivers are suspected of being intoxicated. The trouble is that sometimes mistakes are made when law enforcement officials become too eager to catch someone for driving under the influence. Whether due to officer error or due to improper field sobriety testing, you could become a victim of a DUI charge for something that is not your fault.
Studies have shown that the assumptions made using the results of a field sobriety test are only accurate 77% of the time for the most effective test, the HGN. Therefore, there is significant room for argument as to their effectiveness in determining whether someone is impaired and should be convicted of a DUI. The test can become the only measure of impairment when blood or breath tests have been challenged and suppressed at trial.
The problem with many of the tests is they can be unfair to those who are physically or mentally impaired or recovering from a medical issue. Other conditions, such as emotional trauma, or even wearing high-heeled shoes, could also impact one’s ability to physically perform the tests. Schneider Lerch Bronston, LLC is determined to protect you when you have been unjustly accused based on an unfair test.
Can You Refuse To Take a Roadside Test?
Not many drivers know that it is completely legal to refuse a Georgia field sobriety test. However, because officers do not tell them that these tests are completely voluntary, drivers feel compelled to take the test, even if doing so will ultimately lead to their arrest. Officers are technically not required to volunteer this information, but if you ask, they should legally tell you the truth. Sadly, this does not always occur. When either of these unfortunate scenarios happens to you, it is crucial to get in touch with us right away.
Call Schneider Lerch Bronston, LLC at (912) 417-5008 today or fill out our online contact form. Your initial case review is free.
At Schneider Lerch Bronston, LLC, you have an entire legal team on your side when dealing with serious criminal matters. We are ready to help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.