All police officers have been trained in the detection of drivers who are under the influence of alcohol. Police officers receive the bulk of their training in DUI detection via a course called “DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing.” This course was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The NHTSA course trains officers to administer three (3) field sobriety tests to a driver he suspects is DUI. These tests include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test (following a pen with the eyes); the Walk-and-Turn test; and the One-Leg Stand test.
You should never, ever take these tests. These tests can only hurt you. The law does not require you to take these tests. You have the right to refuse these tests, and there is no penalty to you if you decline to perform them.
Performing field sobriety tests is a bad idea for a number of reasons. First, by taking the tests, you are helping the officer prove his case that you are under the influence. At the point where the officer asks you to take these tests, he’s already decided you are under the influence. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be offering you the tests at all. The officer is asking you to perform these tests in order to give him more evidence that you are DUI. No matter how well you do on the tests, it’s not going to change the officer’s mind. Taking the tests simply gives the State more evidence to use to convict you.
Second, odds are that the officer will improperly administer the tests. According to NHTSA, the tests must be administered exactly the way NHTSA prescribes, or the results are invalid. These are “standardized” tests. In theory, every police officer across the nation should administer the tests the exact same way. Nice theory, but the fact is most officers administer the tests incorrectly. This leads to an invalid result, regardless of whether you are under the influence.
Third, the tests, even if properly administered by the officer, are not reliable indicators that a person is under the influence of alcohol. The error rates for these tests are so high that many courts will not allow the test results to be admitted into evidence. Field sobriety tests are simply poor indicators of whether someone is impaired.
These tests are a lose-lose proposition. If you perform poorly on these tests, the prosecution will try to use the results as evidence you were impaired. If, in the unlikely event you do well on the tests, the prosecution will claim either (1) that you were under the influence of a substance other than alcohol, which is not detected by the field sobriety tests, or (2) that you are a heavy drinker and have a high tolerance for alcohol, thereby implying you are an alcoholic.
No possible good can come from taking these tests. Don’t help the State convict you of DUI. You have the right to refuse these tests–So use it! If a police officer asks you to perform field sobriety tests, you should politely decline to do so. If you have been arrested for DUI in Mississippi, please contact Jackson, MS DUI defense lawyer Curt Crowley to protect your rights.