Drunk driving is a serious epidemic on the American streets. A field sobriety test is typically used to manage this issue. Excessive drinking can often lead to dangerous circumstances like hurting oneself or, even worse, injuring innocent people on the roads or the sidewalk and not even realizing it.
To curb these dangerous activities, South Carolina has passed several laws mandating different procedures to empower law enforcement to take various steps throughout the state, including in Orangeburg. One of these steps is empowering law enforcement to conduct field sobriety tests on drivers they suspect of driving while under the influence.
If you are arrested, hiring a DUI defense lawyer in Orangeburg is necessary to protect your rights.
What Is a Field Sobriety Test?
Any police officer in South Carolina can stop your vehicle and request that you consent to a field sobriety test if they find your driving suspicious to be influenced by alcohol or other drugs.
In the United States, the National Highway Safety Administration recommends three different field sobriety tests for law enforcement to gauge one’s sober level. A field sobriety test is not the same as a breath analyzer test, and refusing to do one has no standing in courts. The three tests are as follows:
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test involves the involuntary jerking made by our pupils when we look to the side of our vision. Depending on blood alcohol concentration in one’s body, our eyes would jerk sooner than normal. While administering this test, the officer would request you follow a stimulus such as their pen or finger and ask you to move your eyes along this stimulus while keeping your head steady.
The officer would be trained to look for six distinct signs while administering this field sobriety test. The six signs are three for each eye. If a person shows at least four or more signs, the national highway traffic administration states they are likely to have a blood-alcohol concentration of over .10.
Walk and Turn Test
The walk and turn test is made up of two distinct stages. The instructional stage and the walking stage. For the first stage, the suspect is requested to stand with their feet in a heel-to-toe position and put their arms to their sides while listening to the officer’s instructions. This is done to distract the suspect so that they won’t be able to give their full concentration to the instructions laid down by the officer.
The suspect is asked to put their left foot on a line and right foot on another line in front of the left foot with the heel of the right foot against the toe of the left foot while keeping their arms to their sides. Now, the officer will verbally ask and confirm that the suspect indeed understands the instructions given to them.
The officer will then ask the person to walk on an imaginary line, starting with placing the heel of the left foot in front of the toe of the right foot, both of them touching, and then placing the heel of the right foot on the toe of the left foot and continue till the suspect has completed nine steps in this manner, all while keeping both arms to their sides. The officer may also do a visual demonstration to explain the same clearly.
Now, the officer will request that the suspect take a turn in a very specific manner. They would be asked to keep their front foot on the imaginary line and then turn with their other foot in very small steps. The officer may also demonstrate how to do this.
Then, the suspect is reminded not to move their arms or stop once started, to count each step, and look at their foot while counting. Each step, from heel to toe position, is counted as 1 step. The suspect’s performance in this walking stage determines how sober they are.
The inspecting officer is given some distinct clues to look out for based on which they would make the necessary judgments on your sobriety. These clues include:
- Following instructions while keeping balance
- Waiting to begin the test until told to do so
- Stopping for any reason whatsoever while performing the test
- Leaving more than half an inch between your toe and heel with each step
- Stepping off the imaginary line you are walking on by placing a foot away from it
- Using your arms to balance by raising them more than 6 inches to your sides
- Not turning the way you are instructed to do so
- Walking more or less than nine steps.
According to the NHTSA, if you give two or more clues or fail to pass this test, it is likely that your blood alcohol concentration is more than 0.10.
The One-Leg Stand Test
For the one-leg stand test, the inspecting officer would ask the suspect to stand up straight and put their arms down to their side. The officer will now demonstrate the correct position and instruct the suspect not to start the test until told. After verifying that the suspect indeed understands every instruction given, the officer would verbally explain the test and also give a demonstration for the same.
When the suspect is asked to begin, they are requested to raise her leg 6 inches above the ground in a parallel manner and then look directly at their raised leg and count in the following manner: “one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three…” and so on. This test lasts for about 30 secs.
Swaying while balancing, using arms to balance while performing this test, hopping onto the other foot by not being able to balance the lifted foot off the ground, and putting your raised foot down once or more times within the 30 secs of the test are the four distinct clues that are looked for. The NHTSA states that if you give two or more clues in this test, your blood alcohol concentration is likely above .10.
Call a DUI Lawyer in Orangeburg, SC Today!
The horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk and turn test, and the one-leg stand test are the three carefully designed tests approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Authority to be as respectful as possible while also giving the police enough information on the sobriety of the person committing to the test. All three of these tests are not the same as a breathalyzer test.
That said, if you or someone you knew has become entrapped in a DUI case, contact our criminal defense lawyer in Orangeburg, SC, today.