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Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety testing usually involves balance and coordination.  Many of us do not have good coordination under normal circumstances.  Now, imagine being asked to perform balance and coordination field sobriety tests when there are a couple of police officers standing around you.  Also, at that moment, the police cruisers have the emergency lights flashing.  Then, picture other people driving by the area with their headlights on while you are doing these field sobriety tests.  Finally, take into consideration that you have a sneaking suspicion the police are going to arrest you if you fail to do these field sobriety tests properly.  What are the chances that you are going to be able to pass these tests?  The answer is that the chances are very low.

Unfortunately, these field sobriety test results are allowed to be used by prosecutors as “evidence” of intoxication.  Some of these tests have no standards that police must follow.  These are referred to as non-standardized field sobriety tests.  The alphabet recitation test, finger-to-nose test, finger-touch test, and sway test, have no known measure of validity for determining intoxication.  Other tests, which are called “standardized field sobriety tests,” have been promoted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as the most reliable methods for field sobriety testing.  NHTSA requires that specific standards must be followed for the results of these tests to be reliable.



There are three standardized field sobriety tests: the horizontal gaze nystagmus (an eye-test referred to as the “HGN”), walk-and-turn, and one-leg stand tests.  The Pennsylvania courts have determined that the results of the HGN test cannot be used as evidence of intoxication.  Furthermore, when administered properly, NHTSA only claims the one-leg stand test to be 65% accurate in predicting someone to be over the legal limit.  In other words, the police may be wrong 35% of the time.  The walk-and-turn test is only 68% accurate.  So, the police may be wrong 32% of the time when making an arrest decision based on this test.

Additionally, certain medical conditions and physical injuries will render these field sobriety tests invalid.  If a person is 50 pounds overweight or is 65 years or older, then the results of the these field sobriety tests are invalid.

You should hire an attorney who knows the proper standards to be used by the police when administering these tests. Attorney Kevin Leckerman knows these standards and has been certified by both NHTSA and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) to administer these tests.

By Kevin Leckerman

Attorney Kevin Lekerman
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