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What does a field sobriety test entail?

When motorists in South Carolina are stopped for a suspected drunk driving, this can be an overwhelming experience. Even if a driver knows that they are not intoxicated and are surely not over the limit, this might not be what a police officer believes or observes if a field sobriety test is conducted. When a driver submits to this testing, they are also agreeing to evidence being collected against them. Even though the state views this information as evidence that could indicate a reasonable suspicion, motorists should note that this information is not always properly collected or reliable.

What does a field sobriety test entail? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are three field sobriety tests conducted by law enforcement when there is a traffic stop for a suspected drunk driving. This includes the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the one-leg stand and the walk and turn test. The idea is that each of these tests measure a specific response or a reflex that are supposedly compromised when a person has been drinking.

With regards to the horizontal gaze test, this measures the involuntary jerking of a person's eye, which is supposedly exacerbated if a person is intoxicated. The one leg stand test, as well as the walk and turn test, are used as divided attention tests. These measure the coordination of the accused as well as their ability to follow specific directions.

Although the results of a field sobriety test are used to validate a resulting drunk driving charge, motorists should understand the accuracy level of these tests. According to researchers, these tests are not always accurate, thus making them unreliable when a person is charged with drunk driving. Thus, even if you fail a field sobriety test, it is possible to have this evidence thrown out.

By understanding the evidence against you, it is possible for defendants to develop a strong criminal defense. If evidence does not hold up, the charges are likely to fail as well, helping the accused avoid serious penalties.

Source: Fieldsobrietytests.org, "Field Sobriety Tests: Standard and Non-Standardized," accessed Sept. 17, 2017

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