You may have heard about any of a number of field sobriety tests that may be conducted by a law enforcement officer on a driver he or she has just pulled over for suspected drunk driving. While there are three "standardized field sobriety tests" – the walk-and-turn, one-leg stand and horizontal gaze nystagmus – there are also non-standardized field sobriety tests that a driver may encounter. This may include such tests as the hand pat, finger-to-nose, Rhomberg balance or finger count. Like their standardized counterparts, these tests may be subject to any of a number of errors or misinterpretations that could result in a wrongful DUI arrest.
To better understand non-standardized field sobriety tests, let's take a look at a few of the most commonly used by law enforcement officers in lieu of or in addition to standardized field sobriety tests.
The Hand Pat Test
The officer will ask the subject to hold one hand out in front of him/her, palm up. The subject will then be asked to place the other hand on top of the first hand, with the palm facing down. The subject will then be asked to count aloud as he/she pats the top hand on the bottom hand, alternating with the palm of the top hand facing up and then facing down.
The Finger-to-Nose Test
The officer will ask the subject to close his/her eyes and tilt his/her head back while bringing the tip of the index finger to touch the tip of the nose, six times, three with each hand.
The Rhomberg Balance Test
The officer will ask the subject to stand with his/her feet together, head tilted slightly back and eyes closed. The officer will then ask the subject to estimate the passage of 30 seconds. When the subject believes that 30 seconds have passed, he/she is to tilt his/her head forward, open his/her eyes and say "stop."
The Finger Count Test
The officer will ask the subject to hold out one hand, palm up. The subject is then to touch the thumb to the index, middle, ring and little finger, one by one, while counting aloud. The officer will then ask the subject to reverse the prosess, completing three total sets.
These tests are administered to gauge a subject's balance, coordination, muscle function and ability to follow instructions. Poor performance on field sobriety tests is considered a sign of the influence of alcohol on the subject's mental and motor skills, as would affect his or her driving abilities. It is important to note, however, that these are physical and mental tests that could easily be influenced by a pre-existing injury, illness or even an inherent inability to follow instructions. Sober or not, people would perform with varying degrees of success in tests such as these.
Testing conditions and the manner in which a test is administered and graded may also influence a subject's "pass" or "failure." High-heeled shoes, slippery pavement, inaccurate instructions, a distracting environment or a biased police officer could all unduly influence the outcome of a non-standardized field sobriety tests.
If non-standardized field sobriety tests were administered after your DUI stop, this could be used to your advantage. These tests have not been proven as effective or accurate by any reputable source, and the fact that they are often administered and graded in varying ways may further contribute to their unreliability as evidence of a driver's intoxication.
To learn more about your case and the steps an Orange County DUI lawyer may be able to take to protect you from a conviction, please call the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry for a confidential consultation. We are experienced, driven and ready to fight for your interests.