DUI Testing: Field Sobriety Test for DWI


dui-testing-field-sobriety-test-dwiDrinking and driving is a serious problem in society today, with major convictions and a large number of arrests. Law enforcement has cracked down severely in all parts of the country and are using any means at their disposal to get drunk drivers off the streets. Here are a few facts to know.

Probable Cause: In order for a law enforcement officer to pull over a vehicle the police officer must have a good reason to elicit suspicion of illegal activity. It is not enough for the police officer to have a “feeling” that there is something untoward going on, as this kind of stop can be and usually will be dismissed by the court which in turn invalidates any arrests. If however, the officer can document that they have probable cause for pulling over a vehicle, including a traffic violation, then the stop is legal. It is important to note that if the police suspect that a driver is intoxicated or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, that in and of itself can be considered probable cause.

Sting Operations: Police, when faced with a concern about a larger than normal number of DUI (driving under the influence) cases, can and often will set up a sting operation that can involve random stops and roadblocks. The operation will stop a set number of vehicles in a numeric order predetermined for the operation. For example the enforcement officers may stop every second or forth car in order to test the driver for intoxication. Drivers found to be over the legal limit can then face charges of DUI.

Once law enforcement makes a probable cause stop, it is then up to them to prove that the blood alcohol percentage is above the legal limit and hence the driver is driving the vehicle impaired. Officers have a number of ways they can do this and a number of field sobriety tests they can administer.

Nystagmus Test – In this test the police officer will usually use an object, sometimes a pen, to move back and forth and ask the driver to follow the motion of the object with their eyes. Because alcohol impairs the movement of the eyes in a smooth fashion, if the driver is impaired they will jerk their eyes towards the object in a less than smooth manner. Held about 12 inches away from the suspected drunk drivers face the object is moved slowly from side to side, while the police officer attempts to view the manner in which the driver follows the path. Smooth following can indicate a lack of intoxication, while jerky and unsteady following could provide probable cause for an arrest and the administering of a breathalyzer test.

Walk and Turn Test and Finger on the Nose Test – Two tests used frequently to determine if the suspect has been drinking are the walk and turn test, and the finger on the nose test. Both of these rely on the impairment caused by alcohol to demonstrate if the driver is impaired by the way they react to the tests. In the walk and turn test, the officer will demonstrate to the driver precisely how they want the test to be carried out by walking heel to toe for approximately 9 steps, then turning around using a series of smaller steps, and finally walking back in the same heel to toe manner using 9 additional steps. Once the officer has completed this test, he or she will ask the driver to do the same, while keeping their arms by their sides, and watch for imbalance or inability to keep the feet moving in a smooth and fluid fashion characteristic of normal walking. The finger on the nose test is administered by asking the driver to stand with their eyes closed; head tilted slightly back, feet placed together, and then reaching up and touching their nose with their index finger. If the suspect is unable to do so, unsteady, loses balance, and has manifestations like eyelid tremors, this could indicate impairment and allow the officer to take the next steps in determining if the suspect is driving under the influence. Once probable cause has been established for a DUI arrest, chances are the officer will ask the now suspect to take a breathalyzer which can establish blood alcohol percentages (BAP).

Once DUI has been established, an arrest and trial will follow. It is important to have a DUI attorney there to represent you who knows the law and is able to use all means at their disposal to aid you; including challenging the tests, described above, and other evidence presented.

The best advice is to always have a designated driver. If you plan to drink, don’t drive.

Andrew Miller is an experienced Social Media expert and Author. He has worked in marketing for over a decade and finds his passion in bringing concepts to life for the world to enjoy. He is also an avid blogger and currently working on a book with his wife about social entrepreneurship. He is a true Socialpreneur and finds that his goal in life is to be an agent for positive social change through both his writing and business endeavors.
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