If you were pulled over because a police officer suspects you were driving while intoxicated, the police officer might ask you to perform a field sobriety test (FST). Field sobriety tests are commonly used to assess whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol. However, they aren’t always accurate, and sometimes drivers who aren’t intoxicated are charged with a DWI after failing a field sobriety test.
Contact a Carteret County DWI Field Sobriety Tests Defense Attorney
If you are facing DWI charges in Carteret County, it’s crucial that you understand your legal rights. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you challenge the effectiveness of the field sobriety test that led to your arrest. Attorney Joel Hancock has successfully helped many clients just like you who have faced DWI charges in North Carolina. Contact Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, to learn more about how we can protect your rights.
What Are Field Sobriety Tests?
Police officers use field sobriety tests to gauge a driver’s physical and cognitive functioning to determine if he or she is intoxicated with drugs or alcohol. Police officers can use the result of the field sobriety test as evidence that the driver was driving while impaired (DWI) when he or she was arrested. Police officers should receive training that enables them to look for clues that indicate that the driver is under the influence of alcohol. These clues include poor coordination, lack of focus, and difficulty completing the tasks the police officer asks them to complete.
Once the field sobriety test is complete, the police officer will evaluate how well the driver performed. There is no pass or fail when it comes to field sobriety tests. Instead, the police officer administering the test will evaluate how all the drivers performed. If the officer determines that the driver did not perform the tasks as demonstrated and instructed, the police officer will arrest the driver and take him or her back to the police station.
Can I Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test?
In North Carolina, a driver does have the right to refuse a field sobriety test. The prosecution can argue that your refusal to take a field sobriety test indicates that you knew you were intoxicated. However, there won’t be any negative ramifications for refusing to take the test as there would be for refusing to take a breathalyzer test or blood alcohol test at the police station.
Carteret County police officers use two different field sobriety tests: standardized and non-standardized. Standardized field sobriety tests are approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They consist of three individual tests officers use to decide whether they have probable cause to arrest the driver for a DWI. The first test is a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN). The police officer holds his or her finger in front of the driver’s eye. The officer watches to see if the driver’s eyes show a delay when focusing on the finger. Delays indicate intoxication.
Another standardized test is a one-leg stand test (OLS). The police officer asks the driver to stand on one leg to determine if the driver can follow instructions and balance standing on one leg. If the driver can’t complete this test, he or she may be intoxicated. Finally, there is a walk-and-turn test. The officer asks the driver to walk and then turn. If the driver can’t balance, walk, and turn according to the officer’s direction, this could indicate intoxication.
Generally, non-standardized tests cannot be used in North Carolina to determine that the motorist is impaired by alcohol. Nonetheless, non-standardized tests are still used by police officers. Some non-standardized field sobriety tests include:
- Finger-to-Nose test: the police officer makes the driver place a finger on his or her nose
- ABC test: the police officer makes the driver recite the alphabet
- Numbers test: the police officer makes the driver count to a specific number and then backward
If you were asked to complete a non-standardized FST and were later arrested, a defense attorney may be able to move the court to find the results from these tests inadmissible.
Challenging Field Sobriety Tests
Before a police officer can ask a suspect to perform a field sobriety test, the officer should ask the driver whether he or she has any medical conditions that would affect the field sobriety test. In many cases, the police officer never asks this question. If they do, the driver might not be fully aware of how their medical condition could negatively influence their performance on the test.
Many different types of medical conditions can cause poor performance. For example, the effects of a prescription medication that our driver is taking could be mistaken by the officer for alcohol intoxication. Comment conditions that can make a driver appear intoxicated include the following:
- High blood sugar
- Low blood sugar
- Watery eyes due to exhaustion or allergies
- General illness
- Physical injuries, such as knee pain, back pain, or balance issues
An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to challenge the field sobriety test based on the circumstances under which the test was administered. For example, if the road was sloped or the driver generally had poor coordination, the test results may not have been accurate.
Ultimately, sobriety tests are subjective and require an officer to decide on multiple factors. The likelihood of an officer using a field sobriety test to detect blood alcohol levels accurately is low, and these tests aren’t always accurate. Working with an attorney can help you prove that the field sobriety test results are unreliable, and the court should dismiss the charges against you.
Discuss Your Case With a Skilled DWI Attorney
After being pulled over at a sobriety checkpoint, have you been charged with a DWI? Your freedom and future may be in jeopardy. Attorney Joel Hancock will review the facts in your case and develop an effective legal strategy for fighting the charges against you. Working with a skilled attorney can help you defend your rights and obtain the best outcome possible in your case. Reach out to Hancock Law Firm, PLLC today to schedule an initial consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Hancock Law Firm serves residents in need of a field sobriety tests and DWI lawyer in Beaufort, Morehead City, and throughout all of Carteret County.