Damico & Stockstill, Attorneys at Law

Things to know about field sobriety tests before taking one

Have you ever noticed how things sometimes in happen in life when you least expect them? For instance, you may pack up a picnic and head to the lake because your weather forecast projected a bright, sunny day then find yourself in the midst of a sudden, unexpected rainstorm that leaves you dripping wet and disappointed.  

Some unexpected events can cause more than disappointment. They can prompt serious legal problems as well, such as if a Louisiana police officer pulls you over in traffic, asks you to take a field sobriety test then fails you and uses it as probable cause to arrest you for suspected drunk driving. That's why it's critical that you understand the ins and outs of such tests ahead of time and know how to protect your rights.  

Three tests you don't want to fail                 

There are numerous types of field sobriety tests, but Louisiana police and others most often use one or more to determine if they have probable cause to arrest you for drunk driving. In the walk-and-turn test, the officer who pulled you over may ask you to walk a straight line while your arms are held out at shoulder length. 

You'll also have to place the heel of one foot at the toes of the other with each step. While you're doing all this, the officer will carefully observe whether you lean, tilt or stumble and whether you exactly follow the instructions he or she gave you to start.  

One-leg stance 

If you're a clumsy person, you may have trouble performing this test, even if you're completely sober! However, police often use it to determine whether motorists have been at the wheel while under the influence of alcohol. You have to stand on one leg with your arms at your sides and your free foot approximately six inches off the ground. You also have to count aloud, usually by thousands, while you do it. 

The eye-movement test 

Horizontal gaze nystagmus is not an easy phrase to pronounce or spell. It may also be the test that lands you in jail if the officer observing you decides to give you a failing score. This test measures your eye movements when you track an object horizontally or vertically without using your head. The officer may hold a pen or a finger in front of your field of vision then ask you to track it as he or she moves it left and right or up and down.  

The average person's eyeballs will erratically jerk once they reach a certain movement point. Intoxication causes the eyes to jerk prematurely. The officer's personal opinion has a lot to do with this and all other field sobriety tests.  

You may have numerous health conditions that can cause you to have difficulty performing these tests well. For instance, if you have a past injury, you may have trouble with your walking gait or balance. The officer should ask you ahead of time whether you have any condition that may impede your ability to properly perform such tests. 

Protecting your rights 

If an uneventful trip to the store or ride home from a night out with friends leads to an unexpected traffic stop, field sobriety test and arrest for suspected drunk driving, you will have your work cut out to try to avoid conviction. It is always a good idea to research Louisiana drunk driving laws before heading to court and to seek strong defense support to help you protect your rights. 

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Damico & Stockstill, Attorneys at Law

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