Every drunk driving arrest is preceded by a police officer pulling over and administering a series of field sobriety tests on a driver. From a law enforcement official’s standpoint, the purpose of these tests is to determine whether or not an individual may be under the influence of alcohol or some other substance. In cases where a driver is presumed to fail the tests, he or she will likely be asked to submit to a Breathalyzer or some other chemical test.
An official SFST consists of a series of three tests including the horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk-and-turn and the one-leg stand. The results of a SFST, however, can be influenced and affected by a number of things. In cases where a driver is subsequently arrested and charged with DUI, it's important to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Along with investigating whether or not the arresting police officer had probable cause to conduct the traffic stop, an attorney will closely review the results of any field sobriety and chemical tests that were conducted. Additionally, an attorney will rely upon information provided by a client about the details of a traffic stop and arrest as well as any related police reports or documentation.
At times, the validity of a SFST may be called into question by a defense attorney. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has established strict guidelines for how police officers must administer field sobriety tests. In cases where a police officer requested that a driver perform tests that are not included in the official SFST, the results of the tests may be called into question.
Even in cases where the results of the SFST are not in question, an attorney may produce evidence related to a driver's physical or mental condition at the time the tests were conducted. For example, certain medications or medical conditions could interfere with the results of a horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Likewise, physical injuries, limitations or disabilities could inhibit a driver's ability to properly perform both the walk-and-turn and one-leg stand tests.
The penalties associated with a DUI conviction in New York are among the harshest in the country. An attorney who handles DUI cases will work to preserve your rights and win a dismissal of criminal charges.
Source: FindLaw.com, "Field Sobriety Tests," Feb. 16, 2016
FindLaw.com, "3 Ways to Challenge Field Sobriety Tests," Brett Snider, May 2, 2013