Anne Arundel County DUI Field Sobriety Tests
Field Sobriety Tests are a series of physical maneuvers that an officer will have an individual perform in making the decision to arrest them for suspicion of a DUI. The three standardized Field Sobriety Tests are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, the Walk and Turn Test, and the One Leg Stand Test. Many people are under the misconception that they are required to perform these tests when instructed by a police officer. However, that is not true, and a person should get in touch with an Anne Arundel County DUI attorney as soon as possible to discuss their next steps.
Types of Field Sobriety Tests
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test is where an Anne Arundel County officer has the suspect track the officer’s finger or pen with their eyes. What the officer is looking for in that test is an involuntary twitching or jerking of the eyes called Nystagmus. It is not something that you can control and it is not something that you have any ability to stop.
Most people will think that they passed the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test because they were able to track the stimulus. That is not really the case. In court, this test is a lot harder for the State to admit into evidence than other tests. In Maryland, there was a recent Court of Special Appeals case stating that you have to qualify the officer as an expert in the administration of that test prior to admitting evidence and that the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test only comes in to show presence of alcohol and not any type of impairment. Many States’ Attorney’s Offices don’t even try to admit that particular test.
The second standardized Field Sobriety Test is the Walk and Turn Test. In that test the officer is going to have the individual stand in an instructional position and be told what to do. If the individual breaks that instructional position that is actually one of the clues on the test. The officer will then have the person walk 9 heel to toe steps out on usually an imaginary line, take a turn around by taking small steps pivoting on their stationery toe and then walk back 9 heel to toe steps.
The final Field Sobriety Test is the One Legged Stand Test. In that test the officer will have the suspect stand on one foot with the other one approximately 6 inches off the ground, keeping their arms at their sides for 30 seconds. The officer will will measure how long the individual estimated 30 seconds to be. The officer is also looking for any kind of swaying or poor balance during that test.
Administration of These Tests
Field Sobriety Tests are nationally standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If they are administered or graded in any way other than the one that is described in the officer’s training manual then they are not admissible and they are not valid.
Weight of Tests in an Anne Arundel DUI Trial
In many cases the Field Sobriety Test will carry significant weight in court. The reason is, if an individual refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test the Field Sobriety Tests are going to be the only form of evidence that the state has to try to prove impairment. They will be extremely important for an Anne Arundel County DUI trial.