DWI: FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

One universal experience all motorists detained for suspicion of Driving While Intoxicated will invariably confront is being asked by law enforcement to participate in field sobriety tests. Whether you are being investigated by New York State Troopers or local municipal police, there are three of these tests that you are guaranteed to see: The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, The Walk and Turn Test, and The One Leg Stand Test. This battery of three tests is known as the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, precisely because they must be administered and scored in the same fashion no matter the conditions in the field at the time of the traffic stop, nor the age, fitness and coordination level of the motorist. The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests are also administered in jurisdictions outside of New York State and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which trains police agencies across the country in DWI detection and arrest procedures, states that these tests are scientifically verified and reliable indicators of whether a motorist is able to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Given the aforementioned, in a criminal prosecution for Driving While Intoxicated it is often no surprise that an accused’s guilty or innocence, and sometimes their very liberty, hinges on the ability of the arresting officer to articulate their observations of the testing procedure and precisely how a motorist allegedly failed to complete the tests to their satisfaction. What a motorist looking to fight a DWI charge must keep in mind is that field sobriety tests are comprised of highly unnatural acts and require individuals, who are already under stress of being detained by law enforcement, to perform task that often have little to do with the actual act of driving. An experienced attorney can point out that in essence what the tests really are evaluating is an operator’s level of dexterity, which is not a direct measure of sobriety. In addition, while uniform administration and scoring of the tests may promote consistency in law enforcement, the reality of life is that no two traffic stops are identical, factors such as time, temperature, flow of traffic and even the road surface are not taken into consideration in the scoring of these tests. The same applies for the subject of the test; whether a driver is 25 years old and physically fit or middle-aged and dealing with a variety of health concerns, if the officer administering the tests deems him able to perform the tasks, he will be expected to complete them and scored accordingly.

If you are facing a DWI charge, have an experienced attorney evaluate your case. Call us at 845-566-5345 to arrange for a free DWI consultation.