Challenging Field Sobriety Tests in Atlanta, Georgia

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Field sobriety tests are notoriously inaccurate, and very often lead to false positive indicators of intoxication. All too often, Georgia law enforcement use these faulty "tests" in order to pin a DUI charge on you, but with the right legal challenge, the judge or jury can be shown how the tests were not performed correctly or did not show signs of intoxication.

If you or someone you care about has been arrested for DUI in the State of Georgia, you need an experienced Atlanta DUI attorney to defend your case and protect your rights. Don't let these "tests" be the reason you get convicted.

Field Sobriety Tests

There are certain standardized tests used to attempt to measure a driver's level of intoxication without or in addition to a breath or blood test. These tests include:

  • the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN test)
  • the walk and turn test
  • the one leg stand test

Understanding what each of these tests are, and how to challenge them in court, is an important part of defending the criminal charges against you.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is an "eye test" where the officers look for certain stimulus responses in the suspect's eye movements. The driver is asked to look at a certain "stimulus" or object, and track that object (usually a pen or similar object). The test looks for the presence of a "nystagmus" or a jerking movement of the eyeball. A certain nystagmus response is supposed to be an indication of intoxication, but all too often this eye shaking can be the result of any number of other factors.

Challenging a HGN Test

HGN tests must be performed under certain conditions and procedures. Officers are meant to be trained to conduct this test properly, but very often they are not. Even in cases where the officer is trained, he or she performs it incorrectly or interprets the results not in following with standard scientific principles.

These mistakes by law enforcement can be used to present doubt in the prosecutor's case, and show that you were not intoxicated at the time of the arrest.

Walk and Turn Test

The walk and turn test in an incredibly common test officers use to detect intoxication. The test consists of nine heel to toe steps in a straight line forward. The subject of the test then turns around (180 degrees) and takes the same nine steps back. Officers look to see if you are able to follow instructions, especially the heel to toe instruction, and whether there are other clues that you are intoxicated. This includes:

  • wobbling
  • lack of balance
  • unexplained movements
  • failure to follow instructions
  • inability to count

Challenging the Walk and Turn Test

While the walk and turn test can reveal an intoxicated individual, it all too often causes false positive indicators of intoxication in people who, for other reasons, cannot perform the test. Depending on a person's body composition, it may be very difficult to complete the test. This is especially true for those who are overweight or elderly. This type of movement is difficult even when 100% sober.

It can also be true of those with any type of injury or physical disability. An officer may interpret intoxication from movements that are only related to a physical condition, not intoxication. This can be demonstrated to the jury to show that you were not intoxicated, and to present reasonable doubt into the prosecutor's case. When reasonable doubt is present, the jury is required to find you not guilty of a DUI.

One Leg Stand Test

The one leg stand test is the final standardized DUI field sobriety test. It requires that the DUI suspect stands on only one foot for a total of 30 seconds, all with your hands at your sides. This is not easy for a great many people to perform, whether they have had 0 or 5 drinks. Like the walk and turn test, it especially is a struggle for those who are overweight or have a physical condition.

For others, balance is simply not a skill they possess in great quantities. Standing on one leg sober may be near impossible for a great many people.

Challenging the One Leg Stand Test

You can present evidence to the judge and jury about the inaccuracies of the one leg stand test. Your performance on the test that led the officer to believe you were intoxicated could be due to a medical condition, or a simple inability to perform the test well even while sober. 

Your attorney can also present evidence as to your specific body composition and physical condition to show that other factors, besides intoxication, were the driving factors behind your poor performance on the test.

Other Ways to Challenge the "Tests"

While the more specific challenges are outlined above, there are other ways to challenge the "tests" these officers use to determine intoxication. First and foremost, all of the tests are based on the law enforcement officer's observations of you, and their interpretation of those observations. 

These observations are incredibly subjective. The subjective nature of these "tests" leaves ample room for a challenge from an experienced DUI defense lawyer. Officers often come up with "standard" answers for why they believe a person to be intoxicated, and it becomes obvious in court at times that an officer cannot specifically recall the night you were arrested. 

Police officers interact with and arrest a great many people in their jobs. By the time a trial comes along, officers may not remember or barely remember your arrest, instead of relying on their reports. When the jury can see that the officer does not remember you accurately, it can present the type of doubt needed to get an acquittal in your case.

Consult an Experienced Atlanta DUI Attorney

Field sobriety tests are not an accurate way to determine if you were intoxicated. Use of this evidence at trial can be challenged to defend your case and your constitutional rights.

An experienced Atlanta DUI attorney can defend your case and protect those rights. Contact us today for a free consultation of your case.

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