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Anyone who has ever been accused of DUI probably underwent a field test prior to being charged. Sobriety testing, also known as field testing, is a common law enforcement procedure arresting officers use to build probable cause. The NHTSA has cited three types of field tests as being the most accurate in garnering results, but the level of scientific accuracy on a standardized field test is lower than most people realize. While arresting officials may claim that field test accuracy currently stands at a rate of approximately 90%, a DUI attorney could easily counter that other studies have shown a significantly lower level of accuracy, reaching for the 70% mark and sometimes even falling short of that. Results tend to varying depending upon who is and isn’t testing the test, with the NHTSA claiming a much higher level of accuracy than other tests performed by forensic scientists who are in no way affiliated with the NHTSA. Regardless to which scientists are coming forth with the most reliable numbers, even the NHTSA’s results leave room for error with 10% of the driving population at risk for a false fail.
What to Expect from the Field Test
HGN testing is a standardized testing procedure where the arresting official shines a tiny stream of light into the eye of the DUI suspect seeking out impairment via:
Inability to follow the light beam
Jerking of the eye
Jerking within 45 degrees of the center of the eye (this is said to represent a higher degree of intoxication)
The problem with HGN testing is that other depressants can have the same affect on the eyes as alcohol does. Anything from anti depressant meds to seizure prescriptions can cause the eyes to deviate away from the light as can eye problem such as light sensitivity, lazy eyes, etc.
The Walk and Turn Test is the next step in the field. During this test, the suspect is instructed to walk heal to toe, spin around and walk heel to toe again. Performing this test under pressure might not be as simple as it sounds. If a suspect puts their arms out on either side or miscounts while stepping forward, that is an automatic fail, even if the suspect is jetlagged, nervous or discombobulated as a result of the previously mentioned test where they are flashed in the eyes with a beam of sharp light.
Following the Walk and Turn, suspects are then instructed to perform the One Leg Stand. This test requires the suspect to stand on one leg for approximately 30 seconds while counting aloud. Having a faulty knee, a lazy eye or a myriad of other physical disabilities could easily result in a field test fail and possibly even a DUI charge.
Failure in the Field: An All Too Common Fort Lauderdale Driving Tale
If you’re a Fort Lauderdale driver, you should be made aware of the fact that field sobriety testing is voluntary, not mandatory. You should always consult with a Fort Lauderdale DUI attorney prior to taking any tests, signing any documents or submitting anything that could be perceived by the state of Florida as an admission of guilt. Whether this test is 90% accurate, 70% accurate or only as accurate as the flip of a coin, your freedoms as a driver and as an individual could be damaged by its results.
About the Author:
Michael D. Leader is a criminal lawyer with Fort Lauderdale law firm Leader & Leader P.A. specializing in all forms of criminal law, Leader and partner George Leader offer years of legal experience and commitment to ethics.