DUI Stop and Field Sobriety Testing – Travis Law Firm

How a DUI Stop and Field Sobriety Testing Work

A DUI stop happens numerous times every day in Erie County. Authorities are required to follow a certain protocol as are the field tests that follow. Not everyone who is stopped and performs badly on field sobriety tests is convicted of drunk driving. For example, if the protocol is broken, you have the right to ask for the charges to be dropped. A stop may be illegal, the field sobriety tests might be misleading and still more tests can be mishandled. Let’s take a look at the rigorous standards that exist to convict someone of drunk driving and how the protocols are often broken.

The Travis Law Firm in Erie County

At our law firm, we understand that mistakes that can change a person’s life happen all the time. No one should be convicted of a crime they did not commit. That includes drunk driving. Our attorneys review your case to see if the proper protocol was followed to convict you of drunk driving. In many situations, the charges are dropped before the case ever hits the courts. 

Having an experienced DUI lawyer is the best way to ensure that your rights are protected. We will be by your side every step of the way. Call us at (814) 277-2222 to set up a free case review. If you cannot call us, ask your family to do it for you.

The Roadway DUI Stop

A roadway stop cannot be random. The police officer must have a legitimate reason for pulling a driver over. This is referred to as probable cause. Some common reasons for doing this are speeding, a broken taillight, moving too slowly, running a red light or stop sign and weaving in and out of the lanes. If the stop was not handled properly, your DUI attorney can request that the drunk driving charges against his client be dropped. 

Observational Reports

The next thing that will happen is that the officer who made the stop will observe the driver’s behavior and demeanor. If they are slurring words, seem clumsy when reaching for their license, are combative or smell of alcohol or drugs, the police officer will proceed with their investigation. All observations are subjective. A person’s demeanor, for instance, is difficult to assess without knowing them unless they are placed in a standard that does not work for everyone. 

Field Sobriety Tests

If the police officer believes the driver is impaired, he or she will be asked to exit their vehicle. To test the person’s coordination and ability to follow commands, field sobriety tests are done. There are two types of field sobriety tests. They are referred to as standardized and non-standardized. 

The standardized field sobriety tests are approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for testing of a supposed drunk driver:

  • The Horizontal gaze nystagmus: Of all the field sobriety tests, this one is often administered improperly. In fact, 90 percent of them are not in keeping with the NHTSA guidelines. The tests use the fact that when the gaze moves in a lateral direction, the eyes will jerk involuntarily. The jerk is enhanced in an inebriated individual and starts earlier.  The testing officer must hold an object just slightly above eye level and pass it from the center to the right then left again with 14 passes broken into four segments. Testing mistakes lead to unreliable results. 
  • One leg stand: This test is used to monitor coordination, and the driver is asked to lift one leg off the floor/ground to a level about six inches high and hold it. At the same time, the person is asked to count to 30. Losing count or balance is considered a failed test.
  • Walk and turn: The driver is instructed to walk nine steps in a straight line, turn using one foot and walk nine steps back along the same straight line.

Non-standardized tests include saying the alphabet backward or standing with their feet together, closing their eyes and touching the tip of their nose. 

How an Attorney Can Help – The Travis Law Firm

An attorney can review the officer’s notes to see if there was probable cause to stop the individual in the first place. They can also check to see if the officer received training in administering the field sobriety tests. Even small mistakes can indicate that there are flaws in the arrest. Call the Travis Law Firm at (814) 277-2222 to protect your rights. You can also reach out to us online.