Arrested for DUI, call the Dog!    941-932-8007
Arrested for DUI, call the Dog!
941-932-8007

Standard Field Sobriety Tests

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that Standard Field Sobriety Tests are defined as follows: “The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) is a battery of three tests administered and evaluated in a standardized manner to obtain validated indicators of impairment and establish probable cause for arrest.”. The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, walk and turn test, and the one-leg stand test are considered teh standard battery of tests administered by law enforcement. Because these three (3) tests have been recognized by the NHSTA, they are considered more credible in court than non-standardized tests.

Once an officer begins an investigation of a driver for DUI it is a common practice for them to administer a standard field sobriety test before taking the driver into custody. These “exercises” or “tests,” which are usually conducted on the roadway, next to a busy street or freeway, aren’t really tests at all. They are divided attention exercises and are set up for failure. The underlying function of these SFST’s is to create probable cause to make a DUI arrest and to gather evidence against the unknowing participant for a court case. A driver who participates in field sobriety tests before being arrested for drinking and driving should consult with a DUI defense attorney who specializes in successfully defending DUI cases.

Field sobriety tests are meant to measure both mental & physical impairment from alcohol use. The major flaw in SFST are that the so-called signs, clues or indicia are often misinterpreted as symptoms stemming from alcohol impairment when in reality they may occur as a result of physical problems that can be traced to sources other than alcohol. This aspect of drunk-driving defense is of critical importance when facing a charge of DUI. Many defense experts agree that when it comes to alcohol intoxication, mental impairment occurs before any physical impairment. Physical alcohol impairment can be masked by alcohol tolerance, but mental impairment cannot be masked. If a driver is physically impaired (performs poorly on SFSTs) but is not mentally impaired, and the physical impairment arises from a source other than alcohol consumption a skilled DUI defense attorney can argue that a jury must acquit a driver on a charge of driving while impaired because of the presence of reasonable doubt. There are an infinite amount of reasons that may cause a driver to show signs of physical impairment other than alcohol intoxication. The most common conditions are injury, illness, fatigue, or nervousness.

A lawyer experienced in defending DUI cases should always gather a complete medical history from their potential client facing drunk driving charges to determine if other conditions other than alcohol may have contributed to any impairment, and challenge the results of any field sobriety test. Be prepared to discuss your medical history with your lawyer. This information may mean the difference between the words guilty and NOT GUILTY. Our attorneys are active members of the National College for DUI Defense.

To read more about Standard Field Sobriety Testing, follow our Blog.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

Officers who suspect a driver of DUI often conduct field sobriety tests to gather evidence to support the alleged violation. One (1) of three (3) standardized field sobriety tests recognized by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. A DUI defense lawyer experienced in defending drunk driving cases can effectively challenge the outcome of the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test and other field sobriety tests. Attorney Brandon Daniels is a former police officer and has been trained in the Standard Field Sobriety Tests. This training along with his experience as a DUI defense attorney and member of the National College for DUI Defense, provide him unique qualifications to defend his clients charged with DUI.

What is horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)? The American Academy of Opthamology defines it as ” involuntary, rapid and repetitive movement of the eyes. Usually the movement is side-to-side (horizontal nystagmus), but it can also be up and down (vertical nystagmus) or circular (rotary nystagmus). The movement can vary between slow and fast, and it usually involves both eyes.”. Officers want you to believe that alcohol is the only reason that you would have nystagmus, but that certainly is not the case. Nystagmus, or involuntary jerking of the eye, occurs in everyone naturally, regardless of whether he or she has been drinking. Alcohol and drugs magnify the nystagmus effect, but so can a variety of other factors, including illness or injury. There are thirty-eight (38) causes of HGN, alcohol is just one (1). The complete list is as follows:

  1. problems with the inner ear labyrinth
  2. irrigation of the ears with warm or cold water under peculiar weather conditions
  3. influenza
  4. streptococcus infection
  5. vertigo
  6. measles
  7. syphilis
  8. arteriosclerosis
  9. muscular dystrophy
  10. multiple sclerosis
  11. korchaff’s syndrome
  12. brain hemorage
  13. epilepsy
  14. hypertension
  15. motion sickness
  16. sunstroke
  17. eyestrain
  18. eye muscle fatigue
  19. glaucoma
  20. changes in atmospheric pressure
  21. consumption of excessive amounts of caffeine
  22. excessive exposure to nicotine
  23. aspirin
  24. circadian rhythms
  25. acute trauma to the head
  26. chronic trauma to the head
  27. prescription drugs, tranquilizers, pain medications & anti-convulsants
  28. barbituates
  29. disorders of the vestibular apparatus and brain stem
  30. cerebellum dysfunction
  31. heredity
  32. diet
  33. toxins
  34. exposure to solvents, PCB’s, dry-cleaning fumes, carbon monoxide
  35. extreme chilling
  36. lesions
  37. continuous movement of the visual field past the eyes
  38. antihistamine use

The higher the blood alcohol concentration, the sooner the eyes will begin jerking as they move from side to side. In addition to eye movement, nystagmus symptoms include sensitivity to light, dizziness, difficulty seeing in darkness, vision problems, holding the head in a turned or tilted position or feeling that the world is shaking. The American Association of Opthamology indicates that you can witness nystagmus for yourself by performing the following test: “spin an individual around for about 30 seconds, stopping, and then having them try to stare at an object. If nystagmus is present, the eyes will first move slowly in one direction, then move rapidly in the opposite direction”.

DANIELS & HANNAN - HGNOfficers are taught to administers the test by asking the driver to follow a small stimulus, such as the tip of a pen, with their eyes, while keeping their head still. The officer should be evaluating an individual based on three (3) different criteria. They look for a lack of smooth pursuit as the eyes move, sustained jerking when the eye reaches the furthest point and lastly, they look for the onset of jerking prior to the eye reaching a 45-degree angle.

Each of these three factors, clues or indicia are counted in each eye. If the officer observes a total of four (4) out of the six (6) possible clues, NHTSA says that the officer may assume that there is a 77 % chance that the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is above Florida’s legal limit of .08 %, and the driver may be arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). The 77% finding requires that the officer administered the test properly and fully understands what they are observing. This allows for a 23% chance that the individual was not under the influence of alcohol according to NHTSA. No individual that we know wants to wager their freedom on the officers understanding of complex medical conditions and trust an officer that they are impaired when there is a 23% chance that the officer is wrong.

As you can now see, the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test is far from foolproof and should not be used for the basis of an arrest for DUI alone. Experts conclude that when it comes to alcohol intoxication, mental impairment always comes before physical impairment. Therefore, the mere presence of a type of physical impairment, such as horizontal gaze nystagmus caused by illness or injury, would not support a charge of drunk driving and your experienced DUI defense lawyer will be able to show this in court. These are all reasons why you should fight your DUI. To read more on HGN, visit the Daniels & Hanna Blog.

Daniels & Hannan, your Sarasota DUI defense firm knows that the DUI is a very serious charge. That is why we fight hard for our clients rights and freedom. We utilize experts in the area of ophthalmology at trial to refute the rudimentary training of the officer and show juries all the other possibilities that actually could have existed when the officer mistakenly believed alcohol was the contributing factor in the HGN test administered.

If you have been charged with DUI, Section 316.193, Florida Statutes, you have rights. Contact the aggressive DUI lawyers, Daniels & Hannan, today at (941) 932-8007 or simply complete our confidential contact form for a free case evaluation.

Walk & Turn Test

DANIELS & HANNAN - Walk and turn nightOfficers who suspect a driver of DUI often conduct field sobriety tests to gather evidence to support the alleged violation. One (1) of three (3) standardized field sobriety tests recognized by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the walk & turn test. A DUI defense lawyer experienced in defending drunk driving cases can effectively challenge the outcome of the walk & turn test and other field sobriety tests. Attorney Brandon Daniels is a former police officer and has been trained in the Standard Field Sobriety Tests. This training along with his experience as a DUI defense attorney and as a proud member of the National College for DUI Defense, provide him unique qualifications to defend his clients charged with DUI.

According to NHTSA’s instructions for the Walk-and-Turn test, the subject is directed to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. After taking the steps, the suspect must turn on one foot and return in the same manner in the opposite direction. The officer is to look for eight (8) indicators of impairment: if the suspect cannot keep balance while listening to the instructions, begins before the instructions are finished, stops while walking to regain balance, does not touch heel-to-toe, steps off the line, uses arms to balance, makes an improper turn, or takes an incorrect number of steps.

The walk and turn test is a divided-attention test – it’s designed to detect both mental and physical impairment. The officer administers the test in two parts, the instructions phase and the performance phase. The Officer is thought to direct the individual to stand heel-to-toe, arms down, while listening to the test instructions. The officer then instructs the driver to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a real or imaginary line, turn, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back toward the officer. While the driver performs the test, the officer watches for any signs that the driver is impaired. If the officer notices two (2) or more of these clues, signs or indicia, they most likely will conclude that the driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or greater, and the individual will be arrested for drunk driving. The real issue is that many of the “clues” of impairment noted in the walk and turn test can be caused by physical conditions other than alcohol, such as injury or illness. Remember that alcohol intoxication causes both mental and physical impairment, and mental impairment always occurs first. If only physical impairment is present, a charge of driving while impaired can be successfully challenged by a skilled and trailed DUI defense lawyer.

An experienced DUI defense lawyer knows that many signs of impairment noted in the walk and turn test can be caused by factors other than alcohol. NHTSA indicates that this test is especially unsuited for people with back or leg injuries, individuals older than 65, and those with inner-ear disorders. An individual who takes the test on uneven ground, or is wearing shoes with heels higher than two inches also may not perform well on the walk and turn test. Sometimes police officers don’t administer the walk and turn test correctly, or don’t interpret the results the way they should. The best way to challenge a DUI arrest that where an individual completed field sobriete tests like the walk and turn test is to consult with an attorney with a proven track record of challenging drunk driving cases.

To read more about Standard Field Sobriety Testing, follow our Blog.

One Leg Stand

Officers who suspect a driver of DUI often conduct field sobriety tests to gather evidence to support the alleged violation. One (1) of three (3) standardized field sobriety tests recognized by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the one leg stand test. A DUI defense lawyer experienced in defending drunk driving cases can effectively challenge the outcome of the one leg stand test and other field sobriety tests. Attorney Brandon Daniels is a former police officer and has been trained in the Standard Field Sobriety Tests. This training along with his experience as a DUI defense attorney and member of the National College for DUI Defense, provide him unique qualifications to defend his clients charged with DUI.

DANIELS & HANNAN - one leg standDuring the one-leg stand test, the officer will direct the driver to stand with feet together and arms down while the officer delivers the test instructions. The officer will tell the driver to raise one leg about six inches, with the foot parallel to the ground. The driver will be told to look at his or her foot while counting “one thousand one, one thousand two …” until told to stop. The driver must stand on one leg for 30 seconds.The officer instructs the individual to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands (One thousand-one, one thousand-two, etc.) until they are told to put the foot down. NHTSA instructs the officer to time the subject for 30 seconds. The officer looks for four (4) clues, indicators or indicia of impairment,. Those indicia are as follows: swaying while balancing, using arms to balance, hopping to maintain balance, and putting the foot down. DANIELS & HANNAN - off balance

The one-leg stand test, like other field sobriety exercises, is a divided-attention test – by requiring a driver to concentrate on two tasks at once, it’s designed to evaluate mental and physical impairment. Specifically, the officer is looking for four (4) clues, signs or indicia of impairment:swaying while balancing, using the arms to balance, hopping on one foot, and putting his or her foot down three or more time during the test. If the officer sees two (2) or more of these signs,they typically conclude that the driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater, and the driver will be arrested for DUI.

Experts conclude that when it comes to alcohol intoxication, mental impairment always comes before physical impairment. Therefore, the mere presence of a type of physical impairment, such as the inability for someone to stand on one leg for 30 seconds, whether or not they’ve had a few drinks, gives rise to an arguable defense to the officers “articulable suspicion” that alcohol was a factor. The one-leg stand test is difficult and often challenging for people with back or leg injuries, individuals with inner-ear disorders or other balance conditions, people over 65, and those who are overweight, according to NHTSA. Uneven ground or shoes with heels higher than two inches can add to the challenge and also provide a viable explanation and defense to the tests.

The most important thing to remember is that all of the results of field sobriety test are open to interpretation and the arrest was only based on an officers subjective interpretation to begin with. A DUI Defense lawyer skilled in defending drunk driving cases can challenge an officer’s evaluation and demonstrate that a driver’s performance in the one-leg stand test and other field sobriety exercises could just as easily show that the driver was not impaired or injury, would not support a charge of drunk driving and your experienced DUI defense lawyer will be able to show this in court. These are all reasons why you should fight your DUI. To read more on One Leg Stand or Field Sobriety Tests, visit the Daniels & Hannan Blog.

Daniels & Hannan, your Sarasota DUI defense firm knows that the DUI is a very serious charge. That is why we fight hard for our clients rights and freedom. We utilize experts in the area of ophthalmology at trial to refute the rudimentary training of the officer and show juries all the other possibilities that actually could have existed when the officer mistakenly believed alcohol was the contributing factor in the one leg stand test administered.

If you have been charged with DUI, Section 316.193, Florida Statutes, you have rights. Contact the aggressive DUI lawyers, Daniels & Hannan, today at (941) 932-8007 or simply complete our confidential contact form for a free case evaluation. To read more about Standard Field Sobriety Testing, follow our Blog.