During an operating while impaired (OWI) investigation, the police officer will try to collect as much evidence as possible to prove that you are intoxicated; the field sobriety test is just one way that an officer will try to establish your level of impairment. While there are several tests that can be used by Louisiana law enforcement agents, only three have been developed and approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): horizontal gaze nystagmus, one-leg stand, and the walk-and-turn test. If you have been arrested for drunk driving after failing any of these tests, an OWI defense lawyer can look into how these tests were conducted to determine if there were any inaccuracies.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
Your eyes can sometimes jerk naturally; however, this involuntary jerking (known as nystagmus) becomes more pronounced after consuming alcohol. To test for nystagmus, the officer will have you watch and follow a stimulus with your eyes while keeping your head still to see if a) you are unable to smoothly follow it with your eyes, b) your eyes start jerking before reaching a 45 degree angle c) your eyes jerk at maximum deviation (that is, all the way to the side).
The one leg-stand test measures your ability to follow directions and perform a “simple” physical task. The officer will first explain and demonstrate the test for you and ask if you understand how to perform the test. To perform the test, you will be asked to stand on one leg while raising your other leg approximately six inches off of the ground, keeping your hands to your sides, and counting aloud by thousands.
If you are unable to maintain your balance, use your arms for balance, hop, or perform other actions that are counted as “clues” of intoxication, you could be arrested for OWI.
For the walk-and-turn test, the officer will ask you to stand in a particular manner while he or she explains and demonstrates the test. To perform this test, you must take nine heel-to-toe steps forward on either a real or imaginary line, pivot in a specific manner, and take nine more steps back while counting each step out loud. Stepping off of the line, taking the wrong number of steps, turning incorrectly, and using your arms for balance may result in a failing score.
Challenging Your Field Sobriety Test Results
Because field sobriety tests are subjective, they are far from perfect–which means there may be a number of defenses that an OWI attorney can use to challenge your results. Attorney J. Bradley Cockrell is familiar with the Louisiana field sobriety tests and can use his knowledge to investigate your performance.
To learn more about challenging your test results, schedule an appointment with our law office today for a free, no-obligation OWI case evaluation.