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Field Sobriety Tests

The field sobriety tasks or FST's are often given by the police in conjunction with any DUI arrest in the State of Tennessee. It is important to note that these tests are designed to fail. The police only record errors made by the accused. Most people absolutely sober would find these tests difficult to perform. Police are trained to notice even the slightest variance by the defendant.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

Nystagmus is the involuntary jerking of the eye. It can be an indication of intoxication. However, the occurrence of nystagmus is not dependent upon the presence of an intoxicant in the body. Substances that would not interfere with driving ability can produce nystagmus, and nystagmus may be congenital or caused by structural neurologic disease.

Examples of possible manifestations of alcohol impairment emerging during nystagmus test include the inability to keep the head still; noticeable swaying, and the utterance of incriminating statements. Points are not deducted, however, for any of these behaviors.

Examples of conditions that may interfere with suspect’s performance of the nystagmus test include a suspect having an artificial eye; having damaged or very weak vision in one eye; eye irritants such as wind, dust, and rain; and visual and other distractions which impede the test, such as traffic, blinking lights, rain, etc. Some persons who are not under the influence may exhibit nystagmus.

Nystagmus may also be caused by certain pathological disorders such as brain tumors, brain damage and some diseases of the inner ear.

Walk and Turn

In this test, the subject assumes a heel-to-toe stance with the subject’s arms down at her side. The subject is to maintain this position until the officer tells her to begin walking. At that time, pursuant to the instructions given by the officer during the instruction phase, the subject is to take 9 heel-to-toe steps down a real or imaginary line, turn around and take 9 heel-to-toe steps back up the line. The turn is not a pivot, but instead is made by taking a series of small steps with one foot, keeping the front foot on the line. While walking, the subject is to keep her arms at her side, watch her feet at all times, and count her steps out loud. Examples of conditions that may interfere with suspect¹s performance of the walk and turn test include wind and weather conditions; the suspect being over the age of sixty; the suspect being fifty pounds or more overweight; the footwear of the suspect; and highway traffic.

One Leg Stand

The instructions for this test are given to the subject while the subject stands with his feet together, and arms down at his side until told to start. The instructions which are supposed to be given to the subject (with accompanying demonstration) are for the subject to stand on one leg (either leg), holding out the other foot approximately 6 inches off the ground, foot pointed forward so the raised foot is approximately parallel to the ground. While standing, the subject may be instructed to maintain this position while the officer estimates thirty second or the subject may be told to count out loud (one thousand and one, one thousand and two, and so on). Either way, the subject is to keep his arms at his sides at all times and watch the raised foot. Examples of conditions which may impede a suspect’s ability to perform this test include a test surface which is not dry and level, the suspect being over the age of sixty, the suspect being at least fifty pounds overweight, footwear which impedes the performance of the test, such as heels and certain medical problems and disabilities.

Non Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

There are other, non-standardized field sobriety tests which have been approved for use by various organizations. These tests include, but are not limited to, Romberg stationary balance test, the finger to nose test, the finger count test, the hand pat test, the alphabet test, the reverse counting test, and the coin pickup test.

I help good people restore their lives

-Lee Martin is a Nashville criminal defense lawyer who has gained national recognition as a DUI and criminal defense attorney.  With over a decade of experience, he knows how to get results in DUI cases.  If you are seeking an experienced DUI defense attorney, use his experiences to your advantage.  If you need help with a pending DUI charge, give him a call at 615-345-1988.

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