Brunswick County Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are tests that are performed by an individual in front of a law enforcement officer during a DUI stop. It is part of the investigation, and the purpose of the test is to determine probable cause for the officers to decide whether they are going to arrest someone. There are a few tests that have been approved by the National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration and there are many more informal tests that officers will subject drivers to. The three main tests are the horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand tests.

For the test to be reliable, it must be administered in a very specific way. Any deviations from the instructions in the test can lead to different results, which can affect the reliability of the tests.

Read below to learn more about Brunswick County field sobriety tests. And if you have any questions, reach out to an experienced DUI lawyer.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is among the most reliable of the field sobriety tests. It is a test during which the officer will ask the driver to follow a pen or other similar object in the officer’s hand from left to right and up and down using their eyes only. The officer is measuring for the presence of nystagmus or small tremors in the eyes once the eyes reach a certain deviation from the center.

Walk-and-Turn Test

The walk-and-turn test asks the drivers to walk heel to toe for nine steps along a straight line, to turn in a very specific way, and then to walk nine steps back heel to toe again. The officer is looking to see if the person has trouble walking on balance.

One-Leg Stand Test

A one-leg stand test asks drivers to stand with one foot raised about six inches off the ground with their foot pressed forward like they are pressing down on a gas pedal. They are supposed to stand in that position, arms at their side, for approximately 30 seconds. Some officers do instruct slightly differently on this test than others.

What is the Weight of a Field Sobriety Test in a DUI Case?

A field sobriety test will not be substituted for the reliability of a chemical test like a breath analysis or a blood test. However, many judges in Brunswick County do tend to give weight to field sobriety tests not only to demonstrate probable cause for an arrest but also to determine guilt beyond reasonable doubt of DUI.

Other Field Sobriety Tests an Officer May Use

Some officers in Brunswick County will use field sobriety tests that are not included among the standard tests. One of these tests includes saying the alphabet from one specific letter to another, for example from “G” to “R” without singing it. There is no demonstrated reliability of that test.

Others will ask for the individual to count by touching their fingers to their thumb. A police officer might ask them to count backwards. Generally, none of these tests have been demonstrated to have any reliability, but they do carry some weight in court.

Refusing Field Sobriety Tests in Brunswick County

There is no criminal penalty for refusing to perform field sobriety tests. An individual is not obligated to do so and refusing to do so will not be held against them in their trial. It might mean the officer is more likely to arrest them, but officers almost always arrest people after they perform field sobriety tests as well. It is hard to think of a case in which the field sobriety tests have been of benefit to a defendant.

If you have any questions about Brunswick County field sobriety tests and your rights, call a skilled attorney today.