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Nashville Field Sobriety Test Attorneys

Am I Required to Submit to Field Sobriety Testing?

There is no legal requirement to take any field sobriety tests and as such, we recommend that you do not take them. These are subjective tests that are only 65%-77% correct when administered in perfect conditions, administered exactly as designed, and evaluated impartially.

You may absolutely decline to take these tests and it is often wise to do so. There are no consequences for refusing to take them (note that this is different than blood and breath tests which may have consequences for refusal, including the suspension of your driver's license). If you do take the tests, they can be used by the police as evidence against you.

The officer already thinks you are impaired — why else would they request you take the test? An officer who already is biased against you is the one who will be grading your performance. In America, you do not have to prove your innocence; it is the duty of the State and the police to prove you are guilty. You have no obligation to do the officer’s job or help at this point.

The best response is to ask the officer, "Am I required to take these tests?" The honest answer is no. Any other response could leave a jury with the impression the officer is deceptive. At this point, tell the officer that you would like to talk to an attorney before deciding what to do. The officer most likely will refuse your request, but there is a considerable difference between refusing to take the tests and asking to talk to an attorney before making your decision.

Whether you refused field sobriety tests or took and “failed” roadside testing, May McKinney can offer valuable insight regarding your rights and legal options. Call (615) 265-6383 to learn more!

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) worked to develop three field sobriety tests:

  • Walk and Turn
  • One Leg Stand
  • HGN testing

Walk and Turn

In this test, the subject is told to take several steps, heel-to-toe in a straight line. Then he or she must turn on one foot and return back following the same process. The examiner is looking for two or more signs of impairment including: if the subject doesn't listen to the instructions before beginning to walk, stops at any point to regain balance, veers off the line, does not touch heel-to-toe, needs arms to balance or does not turn as directed.

One Leg Stand

This requires the subject to raise one foot six inches off the ground while counting aloud until told to stop (it is supposed to be for thirty seconds). The examiner watches for two or more signs the subject is struggling to balance including hopping, swaying, using arms or placing the foot back down.

HGN Testing

HGN stands for Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. This is an involuntary jerking of the eyes as they look to the side. It occurs naturally but can be exaggerated if an individual is impaired by alcohol. The subject will be asked to follow an object (like a pen) with their eyes in a slow horizontal motion. The officer will be looking to see if the eye can follow the object smoothly. If the eyes do jerk, the officer will take particular note if it occurs at lesser angles of viewing.

How to Refuse Field Sobriety Tests

If you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI:

  • Be polite and be quiet
  • Show your license and insurance
  • Ask, "Am I free to go?"
  • If so — leave. If not — BE QUIET
  • Sign ticket and property receipt ONLY
  • If you take a breath/blood test, IMMEDIATELY request a second independent test — it's your right

Do not:

  • Admit to drinking!
  • Perform ANY field sobriety test, including the eye test (these are NOT required by law)
  • Argue
  • Talk or make excuses

Please note that the refusal discussed above applies only to field sobriety tests. Breath tests fall under the doctrine of implied consent, and refusal may result in the suspension of your driver’s license.

What Can Affect My Performance on Field Sobriety Tests?

Even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has admitted that sober persons can have difficulty with standardized field sobriety tests. As such, even if you submitted to field sobriety testing and “failed,” there may be ways to challenge the validity of the tests and your results.

Many variables can complicate this process and may be relevant in court as a DUI case moves forward. The health of the individual taking the test and any physical limitations may unfairly impact the findings.

Someone with knee and back issues, for instance, may find the activities requested by an officer -- such as walking a straight line -- difficult if not impossible to accomplish. A person's weight can also be an issue when taking a field sobriety test. Significantly overweight individuals may also have a difficult time or find the requested tasks physically impossible. This inability to perform may lead to a person being viewed as impaired or under the influence, and those test results may be offered as evidence in court.

Many different things can affect your ability to perform field sobriety tests, including:

  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Fatigue
  • Illness
  • Traffic
  • Wind
  • Dust in the eyes
  • Headlights
  • Strobes from the police car
  • Weather conditions
  • Physical problems
  • Inner ear disorder
  • Age
  • Weight
  • Footwear
  • Lack of coordination
  • Verbal distractions by the officer

A field sobriety test is subjective and not a scientific way of determining if someone is intoxicated or under the influence, yet failure of one part of the test can lead to an arrest. Anyone given a field sobriety test in Tennessee may benefit by gaining an understanding of any outside or personal factors that could have skewed the test results.

Wrongly Administered Field Sobriety Tests

The factors that may impact results can go beyond your physical limitations or challenges. The way in which the test is administered can also be challenged as it can lead to unfair or inaccurate results. The officer giving the test may not be properly trained in doing so and, therefore, not legally able to administer the test properly. The reason for being asked to perform the test may also be challenged, which could lead to the results being thrown out of court.

Our Experience & Knowledge Can Make a Difference

Our Nashville field sobriety test attorneys understand how prosecutors approach DUI cases. We understand the issues involved in building cases against those charged as well as how to work with the court and the prosecution in avoiding maximum sentences. When it comes to challenging field sobriety test results, we know what to look for in errors, procedural violations, and a host of other factors that can impact their accuracy.

To discuss your case and the legal options available to you, call (615) 265-6383 or contact us online. We serve clients in Nashville, Mount Juliet, Franklin, Brentwood, and across Tennessee.

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