Reliability of the Field Sobriety Test–Texas DWI Defense Lawyer
DWI Attorney Serving Clients in Rockwall, Dallas, Denton, Tarrant, and Collin Counties
There are three parts to the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) established by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. This is a National organization and these tests are used by all police officers in the US. The only recognized tests are:
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
- Walk-and-Turn (WAT)
- One-Leg Standing (OLS)
Each test presents its own problems.
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test is difficult to administer and it has been reported that 80% of police officers administer it incorrectly. If the strict standards set forth in the manual are not followed, many times this evidence can be excluded from evidence.
The Walk and Turn Test is the most difficult test to correctly follow the instructions. There are 14 instructions involved. (Imagine if you have ADD or ADHD). Failure to understand any one of them will result in a person being accused of “failing” the test. There are eight mistakes that a person can make: 1) Fail to stand in instructional stance 2) Start early 3) Raise arms for balance 4) Step off line 5) Fail to touch heel to toe 6) Incorrect number of steps 7) Stop while walking and 8) Improper turn.
The One Leg StandTest is particularly difficult even when not drinking. You must stand on one leg raised 6” off the ground and hold that position for 30 seconds. There are four “clues” that are graded. 1) Hop 2) Sway (noticeably) 3) Put your foot down and 4) Raise your arms more than 6” from your body.
On the Walk and Turn and One Leg Stand two (2) mistakes is considered a failure. There are many people with infirmities or just bad balance who can never do these tests. Even if you tell the officer that you have a bad ankle or knee, he will tell you to give it your best try but he will NOT deviate from this grading system and conclusion. He will give your condition no consideration because the rules do not allow him to give any consideration.
The validity of any one of these tests depends on the police officer’s ability to follow established procedures of standardized testing as outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, there have been reports that even when field sobriety tests are properly administered, then scored under laboratory conditions, the results have the potential to incorrectly identify intoxicated drivers. Unless police officers administer field sobriety tests in strict compliance with the NHTSA, the validity of the field sobriety test can easily be challenged.
If you question the reliability of any field sobriety test given to you, it is extremely imperative you hire an experienced DWI defense attorney who understands every aspect of DWI law.
Christopher Hoover is certified in these tests both as a Practitioner and Instructor
At the Law Office of Christopher N. Hoover, P.C., located in Dallas, Texas, we represent clients in Rockwall, Dallas, Denton, Tarrant, and Collin County. Our law firm is 100% focused on DWI and we do everything possible to ensure our clients’ rights are protected under Texas State law.
DWI attorney Chis Hoover is a Founding Member of the National College for DUI Defense and lectures nationwide on the technical advancements and improvements that need to be made in the area of DWI practice. With more than 500 DWI trial cases handled by our law firm, we assure our clients will receive the maximum DWI defense representation they deserve.