One important piece of information to remember if you have been pulled over for DWI / DUI is that field sobriety tests are not mandatory. Field sobriety tests are typically administered at the scene and are different than breathalyzer tests or tests of your blood, urine or saliva (which are given after an arrest is made and do have consequences for refusing). The three most common field sobriety tests that officers ask suspected drunk drivers to perform at the scene are the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg-stand test.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
This test is used to track the movement of your eyes while they follow an object (usually a pen or a finger). The officer is watching to see if your eyes involuntarily jerk as they follow the object. If the officer sees that your eyes bounce as they follow his finger or pen it is evidence that you are driving while intoxicated.
Walk and Turn
This test is used to determine your ability to follow instructions as well as to test your ability to maintain your balance. The test consists of walking a straight line heel-to-toe, making an unusual turn at the end of the line and walking back. Any deviation from the officer's instructions will be used as evidence that you were driving under the influence of alcohol.
One Leg Stand
This test is also used to determine your ability to follow instructions and to give the officer an opportunity to observe how well you are able to maintain your balance. The test consists of having you raise one leg off of the ground while keeping your arms at your sides and, while holding this position, counting out loud until the officer tells you to stop. Any problems that you have performing this field sobriety test will be used as evidence that you were driving drunk.
Some important things to consider when deciding whether to refuse the field sobriety tests
- While you don’t have to take the field sobriety tests, a refusal to take the tests can be used as evidence of intoxication in a criminal proceeding.
- The field sobriety tests are difficult to pass regardless of the sobriety of the test taker and thus your performance on them may be used to make you look worse than refusing to take the tests would.
- The tests are often administered incorrectly by the officer.
- The results of the tests are largely based on the officer’s opinion.
- Without an officer’s testimony that you failed the field sobriety tests, it will be harder for that officer to justify your arrest for Driving While Intoxicated.
You need to be aware that the breath test (breathalyzer) or tests of your blood, urine or saliva performed after an arrest for drunk driving are not "field sobriety tests". If the officer does arrest you for driving under the influence and asks you to blow on the breathalyzer or requests a sample of your blood, urine or saliva, you should request to speak to a DWI attorney experienced in Missouri DWI law before deciding whether to refuse or comply with the request (as there are harsh consequences for refusing these tests).
Remember, an officer must allow you a reasonable period of time to contact a DWI lawyer before you decide if you should take a test of your breath, blood, urine or saliva if you are arrested for a DWI / DUI. BUT ONLY IF YOU ASK FOR TIME TO CALL A DWI ATTORNEY. Once you consult a DWI lawyer and discuss the possible penalties of refusing a DWI breath, blood, urine or saliva test, only then should you make a decision about whether to take the test. If you have been charged with Driving While Intoxicated in St. Louis or anywhere else in the Greater St. Louis Missouri area contact St. Louis DWI attorney Justin Summary to receive a free consultation.