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What can I expect during a field sobriety test?

What should you expect when you get pulled over for drunk driving in South Carolina? Unless you have been through a traffic stop before, you probably are not aware of the procedures associated with field sobriety tests. It is imperative that drivers know the standard procedure for administering a standardized field sobriety test so that they can determine whether they have been treated unfairly by overzealous police officers looking for any evidence of intoxication.

What tests make up a field sobriety evaluation?

The standard field sobriety test involves three components. These include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, which measures the stability of your eye while tracking an object. Drivers who are intoxicated generally lack control of their eye muscles, causing jumping movements as they attempt to "follow" a moving object. Additionally, sobriety tests involve walk-and-turn and one-leg tests. These physical evaluations ostensibly demonstrate levels of intoxication by assessing motor skills. Drivers are expected to listen and follow specific instructions during these tests; those that are intoxicated are unlikely to succeed because they cannot process simple physical and mental activities concurrently.

What happens if I'm disabled or suffer a physical condition that confounds the results of a standard field sobriety test?

Sadly, too many South Carolina residents are unfairly subjected to a test that deems them intoxicated, even when the results can be explained by a disability or medical condition. For example, some eye diseases cause jumpy eye movements that lead to a positive test result for horizontal gaze nystagmus. Further, older drivers or those with mobility issues may not be capable of performing the physical tasks associated with the walk-and-turn and one-leg tests.

Do all field sobriety tests hold up in court?

No. In fact, the horizontal gaze nystagmus is the most commonly attacked element of the field sobriety test, as it must be administered in strict compliance with rules and procedures. Improperly certified or trained officers may be held accountable for administering inaccurate field sobriety tests, which may have significant implications for those facing DUI charges. The results of a field sobriety test are not the final word when it comes to your DUI allegations.

Source: AAA Dui Justice Link, "Standard Field Sobriety Test," accessed Aug. 27, 2015

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