If you’re pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving in Oklahoma, an officer may request you to perform certain tests to determine whether you’re impaired by the usage of alcohol. These “field sobriety tests” are typically conducted at the scene, after you’ve been pulled over but before you’re arrested for DUI. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has sanctioned three tests that law enforcement use in the field, which are standardized to ensure consistency across the US; some jurisdictions have implemented non-standardized tests as well. Due to the serious nature of a drunk driving charge, it’s critical to discuss your case with an experienced Oklahoma DUI attorney, especially if you were arrested based upon these test results.
The Purpose of Field Sobriety Tests
A police officer will usually request that you submit to a field sobriety test so that he or she can determine whether a further investigation is necessary – such as a breath test at the scene. These tests are physical in nature, so they provide law enforcement with an idea of your level of impairment. A failure tends to strongly indicate that you may be under the influence of alcohol, which gives officers probable cause to arrest you for drunk driving.
Types of Field Sobriety Tests
The standardized tests approved by the NHTSA include:
- One Leg Stand: This test is used to assess your physical ability to maintain balance and determine whether you have the capacity to handle multiple tasks at one time. You will be asked to one foot 6-10 inches off the ground, while keeping your arms at their sides. Then, you are told to count out loud to 30 before lowering your foot.
- Walk and Turn: Another multi-tasking test, the walk and turn requires you to take a designated number of steps, in a heel-to-toe formation. Then, you’ll pivot and return to the start. An officer will watch for you to count the proper number of steps and whether you need your arms to assist with balance.
- Horizontal Nystagmus Gaze: This exam assesses your level of intoxication by checking your eyes as they react to movement. A police officer will ask you to focus on an object, such as a pen, as it’s moved horizontally in front of your eyes. Jerking of the eyes as the gaze passes is called nystagmus, and can lead to a failed test.
Whether officially authorized by the NHTSA or developed by local law enforcement, field sobriety tests are a common method used by police to assess whether you’re impaired by alcohol. If you fail an FST, it’s still possible to successfully contest the results in court to fight a drunk driving charge in Oklahoma. The key is retaining an experienced attorney that will present all available defenses under the law. If convicted, you could be facing harsh consequences, including a driver’s license suspension, jail time, and hefty fines. To discuss your defense options with a lawyer, please contact the Law Offices of Robert R. Robles at (405) 232-7980. We can answer your questions or set up a consultation regarding your case.