When charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania, the authorities will conduct various tests to determine if you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These tests, known as Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs), are designed to assess your coordination, balance, and overall physical ability to operate a vehicle safely. While these tests are commonly used by law enforcement, they can often be challenged in a DUI case with the help of an experienced DUI defense lawyer.
What Are Field Sobriety Tests?
Field Sobriety Tests are a series of physical tests that law enforcement officers use to determine if a driver is impaired. These tests typically include the Walk and Turn, One-Leg Stand, and Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus tests. Each of these tests is designed to assess different physical abilities that can be affected by alcohol or drugs.
The Walk and Turn test requires a person to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn around, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back. The One-Leg Stand test requires a person to stand on one leg while counting aloud for 30 seconds. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test involves using a pen or flashlight to track eye movements as the person follows it with their eyes.
Challenging FSTs in a DUI Case
While Field Sobriety Tests are commonly used in DUI cases, they are not always accurate indicators of impairment. There are several ways to challenge FST results and potentially have them excluded from evidence in a DUI trial:
- Officer Inexperience: The officer administering the FSTs must be trained and experienced in conducting these tests. If it can be proven that the officer was not properly trained or lacked experience in administering FSTs, the results may be challenged.
- Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions or injuries can affect a person’s ability to perform FSTs accurately. These conditions may include inner ear disorders, back problems, and even wearing certain types of shoes.
- Environmental Factors: The location where FSTs are conducted can also impact the results. Uneven or slippery surfaces, poor lighting, and distractions can all affect a person’s ability to perform the tests.
- Improper Instructions: The officer must provide clear and specific instructions when administering FSTs. If the instructions are vague or confusing, it can negatively impact a person’s performance on the tests.
Other Factors to Consider
In addition to challenging the results of Field Sobriety Tests, other factors can be taken into consideration when defending against DUI charges in Pennsylvania:
- Body Camera Footage: Many law enforcement agencies now utilize body cameras to capture the entire interaction between the officer and the driver. If there is any discrepancy between what the officer claims happened during FSTs and what is shown on camera, it can weaken the prosecution’s case.
- Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Levels: FST results alone cannot determine a person’s level of impairment. Other factors, such as a person’s weight and tolerance to alcohol, must also be taken into account. A person with a high BAC level may have performed well on FSTs but still be considered impaired.
Contacting a DUI Defense Lawyer
The Travis Law Firm is here to protect your rights and fight for your freedom. If you have been charged with a DUI and have concerns about the FSTs conducted by law enforcement, consulting with a lawyer who can review your case and build a strong defense strategy is crucial. Contact our office today at (814) 277-2222 for a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help you fight your DUI charges. You can also reach us online.