Field Sobriety Tests: To Walk or Not Walk the Line

Even if you have never been pulled over by a police officer and asked to partake in a field sobriety test, most Americans are familiar with this roadside assessment. Movies and television shows often depict scenes where an officer has a suspected drunk driver walk a straight line in a heel to toe fashion. Johnny Cash may have walked the line, but if you are pulled over on a Kansas roadway, it may be a good idea for you not to do the same. Before you agree to submit to a field sobriety test, here are a list of things you should know and consider before making the decision to walk the line:

  • Tests are voluntary: Yes, you heard that correctly. Most people submit to a field sobriety test because they believe that they are required by law to do so. The majority of people who are pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence do not realize that they have the option to politely decline participating in the test.
  • If you fail the test, you will likely be arrested: One of the main reasons to consider not submitting to a field sobriety test is that you have nothing to gain by taking the test. If you take the test and fail you will likely be arrested. If prior to taking the test you admitted to the officer that you had been drinking, you may also be arrested, regardless of whether you took and passed the test.
  • Only three tests are approved by the NHTSA: Although many different tests are depicted in popular media, there are only three tests that have been studied and approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”). The three approved tests are the “walk and turn”, the “one-leg stand” and the “horizontal gaze nystagmus.”
  • Tests are more difficult than they appear: Watching a person on a television drama perform a sobriety test can make these tests look out to be fairly simple and straight-forward. People are surprised to learn that these tests can have false positive results between 20 and 30 percent, depending on the test. Not to mention, completion of these test on the side of road, most often at night in the dark, can make these tests even more challenging.
  • Tests are admissible evidence in court: If a person submits to a field sobriety test, this evidence can and most likely will be used against the person in court. This includes not only the test result but also video of the test while the test was conducted by the officer.

The good news is that an experienced DUI defense attorney can help. A seasoned DUI defense attorney will thoroughly review your case, including any documents or video related to field sobriety tests. The attorney will then scrutinize these tests to determine if tests were carried out in a flawed manner or if other explanations exist for your inability to complete the test. Any errors can be used to call into question the validity of the test results and possibly result in the test being inadmissible in court.

Regardless of whether you submitted to a sobriety test, if you were arrested and charged with a DUI you need a zealous advocate to protect your rights. For more than three decades attorney Charles E. Whitman has been defending men and women charged with DUI. Contact the Whitman Law Offices today at (785) 843-9460 to schedule your free confidential consultation. At the Whitman Law Offices, we will take the time to educate you on the law and review with you, your rights and defenses. Trust the Whitman Law Offices to provide you with superior legal services.

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