Challenging Field Sobriety Tests

Why Experience Matters: Challenging Field Sobriety Tests

There are plenty of DUI attorneys out there. Each one has a different level of experience and a different way of handling cases. Some attorneys try to simply negotiate a plea in every case. We are not that firm.

At Bowser Law, we pride ourselves on fighting for the citizens accused of a crime. We take cases to trial to fight for the best possible result for our clients. When you decide to fight, experience matters. Attorney Bowser’s results prove his success.

In this blog series, we will detail some examples of how experience makes a difference in DWI/OUI cases. Previously in this series, we have covered:

Today we will look at Challenging the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.

Police often use field sobriety tests to screen drivers for intoxication. These are physical tests that are done at roadside under the observation of a police officer. However, just because a driver did not perform well on these tests, does not mean they will automatically get convicted for a DUI. An experienced attorney who has training in field sobriety testing can raise a number of challenges. Attorney Mike Bowser has challenged these tests in hundreds of cases and uses that experience to protect his clients.

There are many common issues with field sobriety tests For example:

Only Specific Tests are Admissible

There are only three tests that are admissible as evidence in court. These are the one leg stand, the straight line walk and turn and the horizontal gaze nystagmus (following the officers finger with your eyes.) The HGN is not admissible in Massachusetts but may come into play in New Hampshire and Maine. Any other tests the police may use like picking up coins or reciting the alphabet backwards cannot count as evidence.

These Tests are Not Specific to Intoxication

Just because you stumbled, doesn’t mean you were intoxicated. People are not used to standing on one leg and there are a number of reasons why someone would fail to do this such as old age, illness, previous injuries to one’s legs, high heel shoes, or plain nervousness and clumsiness.

The Bias of the Police Officer

Most of the time, the reason the police officer made the stop and order the driver to perform these tests is because he/she believed the driver was drunk. After that, anything that happens will be skewed to confirm that belief. This is why it is very important for a skilled attorney to obtain, study and challenge the dashcam video and other pieces of evidence.

Tests Not Administered Properly

While the tests seem simple, there are very specific guidelines that the police must follow for the tests to carry any validity. If they are not followed correctly, the results can possibly be thrown out. One expert studied videos of 360 officers and determined that the tests were administered incorrectly 93% of the time.

Attorney Mike Bowser has extensively studied the field sobriety tests and knows how to challenge them. In fact, Attorney Bowser has been certified in Field Sobriety Testing on the same NHTSA curriculum that police officers are. If the officer did not perform them correctly, Attorney Bowser will find an avenue to challenge that. Call Attorney Mike Bowser at (888) 414-9202 today for your free case consultation. There is no substitute for over 25 years of courtroom experience.

Are the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests Reliable?

One of the ways police officers screen for drunk drivers is to administer the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs). These are a series of three tests:

  1. The one leg stand – in which the driver is instructed to stand steadily on one leg
  2. The walk in turn – in which the driver is supposed to walk a straight line, turn and walk a straight line again
  3. The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) –  in which the driver is instructed to follow the finger of the officer with their eyes

The question then arises: “Are these tests reliable?”

In many instances, the answer is no. There are many reasons why a person may not be able to stand on one leg steadily for example. Here are some common scenarios to illustrate this:

  1. A woman wearing high heels
  2. Someone who has medical issues with their knee and cannot be stable on one leg
  3. Someone who is heavyset
  4. Someone who is clumsy
  5. Any one of us because we never practice standing on one leg – EVER

Unfortunately, the observations made in these roadside tests are often presented by the officer as proof of your impairment. A good lawyer will argue that the observations the office made were not the result of alcohol impairment, but in fact had another explanation.

If you have recently been pulled over for OUI or DWI and were asked to perform the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, please call us now at (888) 526-9737. At Bowser law, we will examine your case and formulate a strategy to protect your rights. People who can’t afford a DUI trust Mike Bowser.