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What's involved in a field sobriety test?

Field sobriety tests are an important part of the evidence gathering process for police officers who conduct a suspected DUI stop in South Carolina. Because Breathalyzer test results -- and the results of other types of blood alcohol tests -- can sometimes be thrown out as evidence, it's important for police to have other tests they can fall back on. The field sobriety test is one such example -- and the detailed notes taken by the officer pertaining to the way a driver completed this test could, in some cases, be sufficient evidence to cause a DUI conviction.

Field sobriety tests include the following types of tests, which police must carry out in accordance with strict legal protocol:

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test: This test has a long and difficult-to-pronounce name, but it's a relatively simple test that involves the officer watching how the driver's eyes move back and forth. A jerky motion of the eyes as they follow and officer's moving finger is often a sign of intoxication. When someone is intoxicated, they usually can't force their eyes to move smoothly.

The walk and turn: This is another simple test that involves the officer asking the driver to walk in a straight line, heel-to-toe then to turn on one foot and come back the same way. Many people who are intoxicated can't perform this action.

The one-legged stand test: This involves the driver standing on one leg with the other foot lifted approximately six inches from the ground. People who are impaired find this exceedingly difficult.

Evidence suggests that a properly administered field sobriety test is 91 to 94 percent accurate. An improperly administered field sobriety test, on the other hand, could render an inaccurate result. If an officer fails to follow procedure, or if some other factor is present, a field sobriety test could be failed by a completely sober driver, leading to an inappropriate DUI arrest and charge.

If you feel that you were inappropriately accused of drunk driving in South Carolina, act now to begin preparing a strategic and intelligently crafted criminal defense strategy.

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