One of the methods commonly used by officers to determine a driver's level of intoxication is the field sobriety test. This form of testing does not measure the driver's BAC levels, but rather their ability to pass tests that are presumed to be passable by a sober individual.
Types of Field Sobriety Tests
There are three main types of tests used by law enforcement officers to help them determine whether a driver is drunk:
Walk and Turn
This is a divided attention test that is believed to be easy to perform if the individual being tested is not intoxicated. In this test, the individual is instructed to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, and then turn on one foot and return to the starting point in the same way. The officer will look for eight indicators of intoxication or impairment: unable to balance while listening to the instructions, begins before the instructions are completed, has to stop walking to regain their balance, steps off of the line, does not walk heel-to-toe, must use their arms to balance, does not turn properly, or takes too many steps.
One Leg Stand
Similar to the Walk and Turn, this test is meant to test the driver's ability to divide their attention, a task which is supposed to be simple for a sober individual. The officer will instruct the driver to stand with one foot off the ground by approximately six inches, and then ask them to count aloud by thousands until they are instructed to place their foot back on the ground. The officer will time the driver performing this test for thirty seconds and look for four main indicators of intoxication during that time: must use their arms to balance, swaying by balancing, hopping to maintain balance, and putting their foot down before instructed to do so.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
HGN is the involuntary jerking of the eye that naturally occurs when the eyes are rotated at high peripheral angles. When a person is intoxicated, however, nystagmus becomes exaggerated and can occur when rotating at lesser angles, and they will have trouble smoothly tracking a moving object in front of them. To conduct this test, the officer will watch the driver's eyes as they follow a pen, small flashlight, or other object moving horizontally before them. The officer will look for three indicators of impairment: if one or both eyes cannot smoothly follow the object as it moves, if the eye is distinctly jerking when the eye is at the maximum deviation, and if the eye jerks when the angle of onset is within 45 degrees of center.
Fighting the Evidence
If you were arrested for driving under the influence after failing a field sobriety test, do not wait to discuss your case with a knowledgeable Chicago DUI defense attorney A talented and experienced lawyer from our team can thoroughly assess the circumstances that led to your arrest to determine your best defense options. The results of field sobriety tests are highly subjective, and this evidence often rests on the officer's judgment of your actions during the test, rather than scientific evidence of your BAC at the time you were driving.
We will aggressively challenge the results of your field sobriety test and present a compelling case in your defense. There are a number of different factors that can affect the outcome of these tests, even when the driver is completely sober. It can be difficult to successfully complete a field sobriety test if you:
- Were unable to hear the officer's instructions
- Were unable to understand the officer because of a lack of clarity
- Were wearing unstable footwear
- Have a preexisting medical condition that skewed the results
- Were distracted by the noise and lights of the passing traffic
- Do not speak English as your first language
- Are overweight or have a physical disability
- Were embarrassed and overwhelmed
Contact Fagan, Fagan & Davis today!
Call our firm as soon as possible if your results were impacted by any of the factors mentioned above or some other issue that kept you from passing the field sobriety test. Our team at Fagan, Fagan & Davis has effectively defended countless clients against DUI charges during more than 100 years of combined experience, and we can fight for you. We understand the serious implications a drunk driving conviction will have upon your life and freedoms, which is why we believe you deserve nothing less than exceptional and relentless defense. Don't risk your case to a subpar defender; enlist the skilled and seasoned advocacy needed to strategically address your charges. Contact a Chicago DUI lawyer from our firm today to begin working on your defense!