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Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
When you think of a DUI arrest, you may picture a person standing on the side of the road, with blue lights flashing and a police officer standing in front of them, leaning their head back while touching their nose.
Or, you may picture a person walking an imaginary straight line on the side of the road, heel to toe, as a police officer watches…
Both are DUI field sobriety tests used by police officers, but only one is a “standardized field sobriety test” that should be admissible in court. Below, we will cover the basic information you need to know about DUI field sobriety tests in SC, including:
DUI field sobriety tests are designed to tell a police officer whether a driver’s blood alcohol level is greater than .08. Designed poorly, though…
If all three standardized field sobriety tests are 1) administered properly and 2) administered together, NHTSA says they have a 91% accuracy rate. But do they really? Or are the police confusing a “coordination test” with a “blood alcohol test?”
The result may be accurate if we assume:
There are literally hundreds of medical issues that can cause a person to perform poorly on any or all of the field sobriety tests, and most police officers 1) do not check for them and 2) don’t care anyway.
What if you are a fortunate, young, educated, healthy, athletic person who doesn’t have any medical issues at all (yet)?
Even an average, ordinary person with normal balance and motor skills can easily “fail” the field sobriety tests while stone-cold sober. Why?
It is subjective.
There are a number of “clues” that the officer is looking for on each field sobriety test, including things like whether the person waited for the officer to say, “begin,” or whether the person made their turn at the end of the walk and turn test exactly the way the officer demonstrated it.
If the officer thinks you are DUI, they can and will “fail” you on the field sobriety tests. And, if the officer doesn’t think you are DUI, they aren’t going to give you the tests in the first place…
Standardized field sobriety tests, when administered properly, can indicate that a person is intoxicated. Or the results may indicate that a person has health problems, can’t follow instructions, or suffers from one of the hundreds of health issues that would cause them to “fail” a field sobriety test.
There are only three standardized field sobriety tests that NHTSA has approved as having any evidentiary value:
There are a number of non-standardized field sobriety tests that police officers still use today, although they have zero value in determining a person’s BAC, and the NHTSA instruction manual says that officers should not use them unless it is impossible to administer the other tests.
First, you decide whether you need to fight against them – in many cases, if you performed fairly well (despite the officer saying you “failed the test”) or if you have a valid medical reason for not performing well, the video of the field sobriety tests may help you.
If the video and officer’s testimony regarding the FSTs are harmful to your case, you may be able to get them excluded based on the officer failing to perform the tests correctly (per the NHTSA training manuals), the officer administering non-standardized tests, or the officer not administering all standardized tests together (the SC Supreme Court held in State v. Sullivan that the HGN test is not sufficiently reliable to be admissible in court unless the other tests are administered with it, for example).
If the FSTs are going to be admitted in your trial, your DUI attorney can demonstrate why they are not reliable by:
If you have been charged with DUI, DUAC, felony DUI, or a DUI-related offense in SC, contact a DUI defense lawyer on the Axelrod team immediately – we may be able to get your case dismissed, you may be able to avoid a license suspension, and you may have defenses that you are not aware of.
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