How do I know if I passed field sobriety tests?

A common thing we hear from clients is that they think they either passed, or failed the field sobriety tests. Problem is, for most it is impossible for them to know one way or the other.

Police officers in South Carolina are trained to use the standardized field sobriety battery pursuant to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) guidelines.

The standardized battery includes:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (one where a police officer looks into your eyes)
  • Walk and Turn
  • One Leg Stand

The officers have been trained to perform the tests in a very particular way. The way the officer provides instructions, administers the test, and grades the test, are all specified by the official guidelines.

The reason that most people can’t know whether or not they passed is based on two important reasons. First, unless you have specific training in training pursuant to the NHTSA standards you can’t know if the officer’s gave the test properly. Second, unless you are able to actually observe yourself from the third-person perspective you won’t be able to tell exactly how you performed.

For example, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test looks for nystagmus or involuntary eye movements (small jerks). These don’t affect vision and are imperceptible to the individual. The test doesn’t measure your ability to keep your head still or to follow the object with your eye. You can’t know if you are showing nystagmus unless you can see your eyes from the officer’s perspective.

Even though it may be impossible for someone on the side of the road to know if they are passing or failing the tests, it is certainly possible to later verify whether or not the tests were properly administered and to verify the officer’s grading of the test.

When we are hired to represent a defendant in a DUI charge one of the first steps is to obtain the video recording of the field sobriety test, the officer’s narrative notes, and the grading sheet from the field sobriety tests through the court’s discovery process.

Once we get these materials they will be reviewed by at least two attorneys in our office. This includes James R. Snell, Jr., who personally reviews all circumstances of our client’s arrest from the activation of the officer’s blue lights through the conclusion of any breath testing procedure at the jail. Our lawyers are members of the National College of DUI Defense, have received specific continuing education in the field of DUI defense, and have also completed a training program in DUI Detection and Field Sobriety Testing pursuant to the NHTSA curriculum.

The results of our review of field sobriety tests can determine if there are circumstances present to challenge the results sufficient to have them suppressed or to argue that they are discredited. If our client wants to have their case resolved outside of the courtroom, a thorough review may also assist in have a charge reduced (for example to reckless driving). Contact the firm today for the assistance you need.

Categories: Testing
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