Three Ways to Challenge a Field Sobriety Test in Nevada
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If you are facing DUI charges in Nevada, you likely were arrested a following a field sobriety test performed by a police officer. The sobriety test is a Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST), which was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), so that suspected drunk drivers are tested with the same specific tests, and officers are trained how to administer them accurately.
The SFST is really a mental and physical agility test and typically consists of three parts:
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) or pen test: This test checks to see if a subject’s eyes involuntarily jerk or bounce when they are looking to the left or the right. The officer moves a pen or finger back and forth in front of the subject’s eyes across their field of vision.
The one-leg stand (OLS) test: The subject is asked to stand on one leg and count out loud while instructed to stop. The officer checks for swaying while balancing, using arms to balance, hopping or putting your foot down.
The walk-and-turn (WAT) test: The subject is asked to walk heel to toe for nine steps in a straight line and then turn on a single foot and walk back the same way. The test can be failed if you cannot balance, start walking before being instructed to, use your arms to balance, lose balance while turning, or take the wrong number of steps.
These tests are difficult and highly subjective. Despite being standardized, and the NHTSA’s claims that they are sufficiently reliable, they are not 100% accurate. All people do not have the same coordination and even healthy and sober people may struggle to successfully complete these tests. Overweight people and those with neurological or medical conditions may struggle even more. Three common defenses to field sobriety tests are:
The test was flawed. Arguments for a flawed test could be testing or weather conditions were poor, the road surface was uneven, lighting was bad, or spectators made the test distracting.
The test was not administered correctly in accordance with NHTSA guidelines. For example, a police officer using their own non-standardized sobriety test such as counting fingers, reciting a portion of the alphabet, counting backwards, etc.
A medical condition skewed the results. The HGN test can be affected if you are wearing glasses, facing the police offer’s vehicle with flashing lights, or your eyes are twitching from multiple sclerosis, Bell’s Palsy, or any other condition that causes twitching.
A charge of DUI is not a simple traffic ticket, it is a crime. The citation for suspected DUI throws you into the criminal justice system and you will need to go to court. Your attorney can help you with your plea options, gathering evidence, making pre-trial motions, such as suppressing or excluding evidence or case dismissal, summary judgment, etc.