Challenging a Field Sobriety Test
Have you been arrested and charged with drunk driving in Atlanta because of a failed field sobriety test? If so, you are probably concerned about the possibility of losing your driver’s license or even being sent to jail.
However, before you can face either of these penalties, the prosecutor must successfully convict you of the offense. You may be able to prevent them from accomplishing this feat by challenging the field sobriety test. The team here at Yeargan & Kert, LLC, can help you do just that.
How the Yeargan & Kert, LLC Team Can Help You Challenge Your Field Sobriety Test
The criminal defense lawyers here at Yeargan & Kert, LLC, are dedicated to helping our clients fight back against their DUI charges in any way that we can. When you hire us to challenge the results of your field sobriety test, we will:
Review Your Case for Testing Errors
When our DUI defense attorneys first meet with you, we will review the details of your case. More specifically, we will check to see if the arresting officer administered your field sobriety test correctly.
If they did, don’t worry. Even if we don’t believe that we can challenge the results of your field sobriety test, we may still be able to get your charges dropped or reduced in another way.
If the arresting officer did not administer the test correctly, however, we will immediately get to work figuring out the best ways to challenge its results. Once we have some suggestions, we will walk you through them and let you know which one we think offers the best chance of success in court.
Argue on Your Behalf in Court
When we decide how we would like to challenge your field sobriety test, we will first speak to the prosecuting attorney about our concerns and ask them to reconsider your charges in light of this new information. If they refuse to drop the case, we will instead argue your case in front of a judge.
Having worked in the legal industry for years, the DUI lawyers here at Yeargan & Kert, LLC, know how to present a test challenge in a way that will resonate with the presiding judge. Though we cannot guarantee a specific outcome, we can promise that you will be well-represented in court.
Would you like to have a Yeargan & Kert, LLC criminal defense attorney help you challenge your field sobriety test? If so, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Atlanta law office to set up an initial consultation with a member of our team.
Georgia Field Sobriety Tests and How to Challenge Them
When checking to see if a driver is impaired, police officers in the state of Georgia can use a wide range of different field tests. In some instances, they may ask the driver to recite the alphabet backwards. In others, they might tell the driver to close their eyes and touch their nose.
Though these tests are commonly used, they are not endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This government agency recognizes only three standardized field sobriety tests:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN Test)
- Walk and Turn Test
- One-Leg Stand Test
So, what exactly do these tests entail? And how can they be challenged in court?
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN Test)
When conducting an HGN test, police officers will first bring the driver to a well-lit area or use a flashlight to light up their face. They then ask the subject to follow an object (usually a pen) that is placed approximately 12 to 15 inches away using only their eyes.
As they administer this test, officers watch for the following three clues which may indicate inebriation:
- Lack of Smooth Pursuit: If a suspect’s eyes jerk when following the object, rather than moving in a smooth motion, it may indicate that they are driving under the influence of alcohol.
- Onset of Nystagmus Before 45 Degrees: If the driver’s eyes begin to jerk before the officer moves the object more than 45 degrees from the center of their face, they may be drunk.
- Distinct Nystagmus at Maximum Deviation: If the suspect’s eyes begin to jerk when the officer holds the object to the side for more than four seconds, there is a good chance that they are inebriated.
Challenging the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN Test)
If it is to be used as evidence in a DUI case, the HGN test must be administered correctly. When conducting this test, police officers often make the following mistakes:
- Not moving to a well-lit area
- Not facing the suspect away from the lights of oncoming cars
- Not asking the suspect if they wear contact lenses
- Not asking the suspect if they have any medical conditions which may skew the results
- Placing the object too far away from or too close to the suspect’s face
Attorneys who can show that one or more of these errors occurred during their client’s HGN test may be able to get its results thrown out.
Walk and Turn Test
The standardized walk and turn test is divided into two stages – instruction and performance. During the instruction stage, the police officer typically asks the suspect to stand heel-to-toe with their arms down by their side. The officer will then explain in detail how the test should be performed.
During the performance stage, the driver will need to walk in a straight line for nine heel-to-toe steps. They will then pivot and walk back in the other direction. Throughout the test, the suspect will be required to count their steps out loud.
At every stage of the test, the police officer will be watching out for signs of insobriety, such as:
- Difficulty balancing during the instruction phase
- Beginning the performance before being instructed to do so
- Struggling to walk heel-to-toe
- Failing to walk in a straight line
- Taking the incorrect number of steps
If the officer notices any of these clues, they may come to the conclusion that the suspect has an elevated blood alcohol level.
Challenging the Walk and Turn Test
The walk and turn test is relatively effective at revealing individuals who are inebriated. However, it can also lead to a large number of false positives.
Individuals who have a permanent physical disability or a temporary injury in their leg may have trouble completing this test satisfactorily. The same can be said of people who have ear infections or other medical conditions that may cause them to have trouble balancing.
If a DUI lawyer can prove that their client failed the walk and turn test for a reason other than intoxication, they should be able to get its results disqualified.
One-Leg Stand Test
When administering the one-leg stand test, police officers will first move the suspect to a flat surface. They then instruct the suspect to raise one of their feet approximately six inches off the ground with their hands to their side. Next, the suspect will be asked to look at their foot and count slowly until they are told to stop.
Throughout the one-leg stand test, officers watch out for the following signs of intoxication:
- Using arms for balance
- Lowering the raised foot
- Difficulty counting
Drivers who display one or more of these signs may be suspected of having a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
Challenging the One-Leg Stand Test
Individuals with physical disabilities and medical conditions may have trouble performing the one-leg stand. As such, it can be challenged in much the same way as the walk and turn test.
If a DUI attorney can provide evidence to prove that their client failed the test because of a medical issue, they should be able to get its results thrown out.
Are you facing a DUI charge because you failed a field sobriety test? Contact the Yeargan & Kert, LLC team in Atlanta for legal advice and guidance on your next steps.
Can You Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test in Georgia?
Challenging the results of a field sobriety test can be an excellent way to get DUI charges dropped or reduced. However, if you ever find yourself being asked to take a field sobriety test in the state of Georgia again in the future, feel free to decline to do so.
These tests are unreliable at best, and Georgia drivers have no obligation whatsoever to take them – even if ordered to do so by a police officer. As such, when faced with a field sobriety test, it is generally advisable to say no every time.
Should you have any other questions about your rights and responsibilities as a motorist in Georgia, please feel free to reach out to the team here at Yeargan & Kert, LLC. We are always ready, willing, and able to provide you with the assistance you require.
Need Help Challenging a Field Sobriety Test in Georgia? Contact Yeargan & Kert, LLC Today
If you currently find yourself in legal trouble because of a failed field sobriety test, there is only one law firm you need to turn to – Yeargan & Kert, LLC. We have been helping Atlanta drivers fight back against their DUI charges for years, and would love to do the same for you. To learn more about our legal services, just give us a call and set up a free consultation with a member of our team.