What Field Sobriety Tests are Used in Atlanta?

What Field Sobriety Tests are Used in Atlanta?

There are several different field sobriety tests that may be used in Atlanta when a police officer is trying to determine whether or not a driver is impaired. It’s standard for officers to conduct these tests during DUI stops. Of course, field sobriety tests like the walk and turn test or the one-leg test aren’t backed up by science. Furthermore, if an officer administrates a test in a way that doesn’t match up with their training, the weight of the test can be challenged.

It can be hard for a layperson to understand the laws surrounding Atlanta DUI stops. That’s why it’s so important for anyone charged with a DUI speaks with an expert DUI defense attorney at Howard & Arca. Our legal team will be able to look more closely at the field tests that were administered during your DUI stop.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus In Atlanta

Police departments in Atlanta believe the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, or HGN test, to be one of the most reliable field sobriety tests. Because of this, it’s common to see this test administered in both the Atlanta Metro area and in surrounding areas, like North Georgia and North Fulton County. According to police officers, this test is an effective way of determining whether or not someone is intoxicated and how impaired you are. HGN is a go-to test because law enforcement officers don’t just think it can help them to determine whether or not a driver has been drinking. It’s also a way to see how drunk the person is.

Nystagmus describes a vision condition where eyes repeatedly move in a manner that the sufferer can’t control. This definition comes from the American Optometric Association.

This is often referred to as the “eye test.” When this test is administered, an individual will be asked to follow either a finger or a pen with their pupils. The officer administering their test will watch their pupils and see if they jerk or bounce around. Typically, some minor bouncing near the outer portion of the eye will occur. However, the NHTSA states that when a person is intoxicated, their eyes will bounce, but then will move at a 45-degree angle. Officers are watching out for specific eye movements.

According to data from the NHTSA, even someone who drinks regularly won’t be able to hide their drinking when the HGN test is administered by an experienced officer. The test looks for an involuntary reaction, so the person being tested won’t be able to control their eye movements.

Walk And Turn Test

The walk and turn test is the most common type of field sobriety test used during DUI stops in Atlanta. This test divides a person’s attention while the officer watches out for eight different signs. Someone might think they passed a walk and turn test without any issues. However, the average person isn’t aware of the signs officers are watching out for. For example, police officers will check to see whether a person is able to stay balanced as they’re given instruction.

A man taking field sobriety tests in Atlanta.

If someone is asked to place their right foot in front of their left foot, they might stop to catch their balance. Even if the officer conducting the DUI stop might ask them to touch heel to toe, they may ignore these requests. An officer will also check to see if the person takes the appropriate number of steps and see if they are able to maintain their balance as they turn and if they rely on their arms to stay balanced. In total, there are eight signs that officers look for during a walk and turn test.

One-Leg Stand Test

This is another test that divides a person’s attention. Individuals that are given this test during a DUI stop will be told to stand with one of their feet about half a foot off the ground. They will be asked to stay balanced while pointing their toe. From there, the individual will be told to keep their arms at their sides for the next 30 seconds while they look at their foot. The individual will be monitored by the officer to see if they hop around, lift their arm, put their foot down before the 30 seconds are up, or sways from side to side.

Relevance At Trial

Not all juries are the same. With that said, many juries take field sobriety tests very seriously. Even though these tests are treated as significant, there are a number of people that can’t pass a field sobriety test, even when they’re sober. However, other juries acknowledge that these tests are challenging, and because of this, they don’t put much stock in them.

It’s important to remember that the way field sobriety tests are used in the city of Atlanta isn’t unusual. These tests are used in DUI stops across the country. These tests are also voluntary in nature. During a DUI stop, you have the option of refusing field sobriety tests. You are not obligated to complete these tests.

Not All Georgia Field Sobriety Tests are “Official”

While the NHTSA approves some field sobriety tests, there are other tests that may be used during a DUI stops. These are a few tests that haven’t been demonstrated to be reliable:

Finger Count Field Sobriety Test

During this test, a DUI suspect is told to place the tip of their index finger against their thumb and count to one. After that, they are told to touch the other fingers on their hand as they count up to four. After that, the suspect must repeat the process while counting backward.

Finger to Nose Field Sobriety Test

This is another test that hasn’t been proven to be reliable. When this test is administered, a suspect is told to tilt their head back and close their eyes before touching the tip of their nose. The officer will see if the individual is able to complete this successfully. The person may fail to reach their nose and touch other sections of their face instead.

Rhomberg Balance Field Sobriety Test

Even though this test isn’t supported by data, a number of police officers use it regularly. When this test is administered, someone is told to close their eyes, stand still, and tilt their head back for 30 seconds. The officer will monitor how close the person is to staying still for 30 seconds. It’s assumed that someone’s internal clock slows down when they are intoxicated. This test is designed to reflect this.

Contact an Attorney if a Field Sobriety Test Led to Your DUI Arrest

Disproving a field sobriety test is a much easier task with an experienced lawyer helping you along the way. Contact Howard & Arca today if you were charged with a DUI after taking a field sobriety test. We offer a free case review to let you know your best options for dealing with the charges you are facing.

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