Month: August 2017

What Constitutes A Field Sobriety Test In Knoxville, Tennessee?

When a Tennessee law officer pulls you over for being under suspicion of a DUI, you may be asked by the officer to get out of your vehicle and perform a sequence of field sobriety tests (FST).  These specific tests are standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Due to the standardization of these tests, they should be the same three tests no matter where or who pulls you over.  Furthermore, it is expected that these three tests will be given the exact same way.  

Do you have to submit yourself to a field sobriety test?  The answer is no, and you do not have to.  The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has estimated that law enforcement officials detect impairment incorrectly in nine out of every one hundred field sobriety tests.  Field Sobriety Tests are given solely to “prove” whether or not you are too impaired to operate your vehicle.  The tests are only there to serve the interest of the arresting officer that pulled you over.  Passing all the tests will not necessarily put you in the clear.  The officer can still choose to charge you with a DUI in Tennessee even if you pass all the FST.  The officer that stopped you is not obligated to let you know that you are allowed to refuse the tests.  Usually, it is in your best interests to politely decline to take the FST.

If you do decide to comply and take the field sobriety tests, it is helpful to understand how they work.  The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) is the test where the officer will shine a light in your eye or will ask you to follow his pen or their finger as it is moved from side to side.  They will be looking to see if your eyes move smoothly from side to side, not jerky or jumping.  This is supposed to be the most accurate of the FST because movement from your eyeballs is involuntary.  However, there are at least thirty-eight other health conditions that one could suffer from that would make their eyes nystagmus.  These range from inner ear issues to glaucoma or even excess caffeine intake.   The next test is the Walk and Turn (WAT).  This field sobriety test is where the officer will have you walk a straight line, heel to toe for nine steps.  Then they will ask you to turn and walk it back to them.  This is supposed to show your balance and your ability to multi-task.  If this test is not done on solid, dry, flat ground, then it may not be valid.  Also if the officer did not give you an actual straight line to go by, then the test may not be accurate.  Lastly, the officer will ask you to do the One Leg Stand (OLS) test.  This tends to be the most inaccurate of all the field sobriety tests.  You will be asked to stand and hold one foot up off the ground (at least six inches) in front of you for a total of thirty seconds.  This test too is to show balance, like the WAT.  People with back or leg problems tend to have trouble even sober performing this field sobriety test.  Each of these tests has multiple signs that the police officers are trained to look out for, to indicate impairment of the driver.  If the officer sees these signs and has a breath test, they will use these test factors as evidence that you are too impaired to drive.  This can be due to drinking or impairment under drugs.  You will be charged with a DUI, and if you are convicted, you will lose your license and be forced to pay substantial money in the form of fines.  Plus your daily routine may have to change drastically if you are without personal transportation.

One of the most frequently asked questions we get at our firm is; Can I beat a field sobriety test?  We explain to all our clients that every person and every case is different.  Just as kids perform differently on their school exams, someone pulled over may respond differently than the next on the field sobriety tests.  Also, it is important to note that no two officers are exactly alike.  One may administer the FST different than that of the next.  Field Sobriety Tests to us are a very subjective component to a DUI case.  Field sobriety tests are not infallible, and under some circumstances, they may not even be admissible.  It is possible to build a defense on behalf of a client who “failed” the field sobriety tests during a DUI stop in the state of Tennessee.

Our skilled Knoxville DUI attorneys have many years of experience building defenses as such to help the general public.  We have a great understanding of how the local and state law enforcement administers these field sobriety tests, and we know how to look for the weak spots.  Our law office stays up to date on the ever-changing DUI laws in Tennessee.  We work diligently and aggressively to uphold your rights and defend you from your DUI charge.  Our firm takes pride in helping you and your family rest easy knowing that your best interests are also our shared interests.  We realize not only the financial burden that a DUI can place on you and your family, but we also understand that your freedom is at stake.

At Barnes Law in Knoxville, Tennessee our legal team is awaiting your call to discuss your recent DUI charge.  Our attorneys know the Tennessee DUI laws and can build a strong defense on your behalf.  A skilled DUI attorney at the Barnes Law Firm will guide you through the complicated legal process and fight to have your charges dropped. Call our office today for a free consultation.