STANDARD FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS

Standard Field Sobriety Tests

Trust a Knowledgeable DWI Lawyer serving Westchester, NY


The Law Office of Michael D. Litman can defend your DWI case in careful, thorough fashion. In many cases, an arrest is made based on a field sobriety test administered by a police officer. There are multiple factors that may have an effect on your ability to perform these tests. We can help determine if these tests were administered properly. If not, that’s something that could help ensure your charges get dismissed. 

Typical field sobriety tests administered by police officers include:
Walk and Turn  Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)  One Leg Stand (OLS)  Finger to Nose

Our DWI Lawyers Know All the Factors

WALK AND TURN

This test involves taking 9 steps in one direction along a line (sometimes real and sometimes imaginary), touching the heel of your front foot to the toe of your back foot, then executing a turn in a certain direction and in a certain manner, then walking back exactly 9 steps in the same manner.

The walk and turn might not sound that hard to do, however a few aspects of this will have a major effect on your performance on the test, including:
  • Location at which the tests are given may not be level ground; 
  • The flashing lights of the police car may be disorientating, particularly at night; 
  • The traffic driving by may be disorientating, especially on the highway;  
  • If there is no actual line, the imaginary line that you are walking on is in the officer’s head, not yours, so you may not know exactly where the line is; and 
  • Your physical ability is a major factor, as it is likely that you have never walked in the way the test requires you walk (i.e., heel-to-toe with a precise turn).
There are eight (8) factors that the police officer will judge you on to determine if you pass or fail the walk and turn test, including:
  • Maintaining the instructional position of standing heel-to-toe on the line; 
  • Starting the test when you are directed to start, not before; 
  • Keeping your arms at your sides and not raising them for balance; 
  • Touching your front heel with your rear toe on every step; 
  • Staying on the line (imaginary or real) with every step; 
  • Walking the exact number of steps instructed; 
  • Turning in the direction and manner instructed; and 
  • Walking all of the steps without stopping. 
  • Additionally, you will be judged on your balance during the whole test.

HORIZONTAL GAZE NYSTAGMUS (HGN)

The HGN is essentially a medical test, administered by police officers, that MAY show that you are intoxicated. The HGN is an attempt by the police officer to generate an involuntary movement in your eye, which may occur when you are intoxicated.

While you do not have control over your performance on this test, there are factors that have an effect on the results and reliability of the HGN, including: 
  • Your medical issues with your eyes since there are other medical reasons for your eyes to exhibit an involuntary twitch. The police officer administering the HGN test is not a medical professional, and cannot tell the difference between the twitch that might occur from intoxication, from the twitch that might occur from another medical condition;
  • The flashing lights of the police car in the field; and  
  • The lights and movements of the passing cars.
There are three (3) factors that the police officer will judge you on to determine if you pass or fail the HGN test, including:
  • Lack of smooth pursuit – if your eye cannot smoothly follow the item being moved left and right, in front of your face; 
  • Nystagmus at maximum deviation – when your eye is looking to the outside corner of your eye (left for your left eye; right for your right eye) for four (4) seconds, if there is jerking in your eye; and 
  • Angle of onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees – if there is jerking of your eye at an angle of 45 degrees.

ONE LEG STAND (OLS)

The one leg stand requires you to stand on one leg, while holding the other leg off of the ground in a particular way, for a specific amount of time, usually thirty (30) seconds, while counting out loud. The one leg stand is similar to the walk and turn test, in that it requires coordination in a way that we are not accustomed to doing too often. 

There are multiple factors that have an effect on your performance on the one leg stand test, many of which are similar to the walk-and-turn, including:
  • Location at which the tests are given may not be level ground; 
  • The flashing lights of the police car may be disorientating, particularly at night; 
  • The traffic driving by may be disorientating, especially on the highway; and 
  • Your physical ability is a major factor, as it is likely that you do not regularly stand on one leg while counting out loud.
There are four (4) factors that the police officer will judge you on to determine if you pass or fail the one leg stand, including:
  • Balancing on one foot without swaying or falling; 
  • Keeping one foot on the ground without hopping or shuffling; 
  • Keeping one foot off of the ground (about six inches) without putting it down; and 
  • Keeping your arms at your sides and not raising them for balance. 
  • Additionally, you will be judged on other factors, including: starting with your feet together; counting out loud as instructed; pointing your toes as instructed; and keeping your raised leg straight.

FINGER TO NOSE

The finger to nose test requires you to stand with your feet together, head tilted back and eyes closed, then, on instruction from the officer, put the index finger from one of your hands to the tip of your nose in a particular way, then back down to your side. The finger to nose test is a divided attention test requiring you to perform a physical task and a mental task. This field sobriety test is non-standardized, meaning that it has not been endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is the entity that approves the standardized tests. 

There are multiple factors that have an effect on your performance on the finger to nose test, including:
  • Location at which the tests are given may not be level ground; 
  • The traffic driving by may be disorientating, especially on the highway; and 
  • Your physical ability is a major factor, as it is likely that you do not regularly stand with your feet together, head tilted back, and eyes closed.
The factors that you will be judged that will cause the police officer to determine if you pass or fail the finger to nose test are:
  • Standing with your feet together; 
  • Keeping your eyes closed; 
  • Using the instructed finger (left or right) to touch your nose; 
  • Touching the tip of your nose with the tip of your index finger; 
  • Returning your arms to the start position; and 
  • Keeping your balance and not swaying or falling.
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