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That is according to the Tennessee Supreme Court in State v. Bell, where the Court held that even though Mr. Bell passed his field tests, it was still legal to arrest him.
I’d argue they shouldn’t. They can be used against you, but passing won’t help you. The movements are designed to divide your attention. They are unnatural tasks that most people aren’t used to. Weight, age, and physical conditions can make you fail, regardless of impairment. And after all that, you’re doing them in a high pressure situation, on the side of the road, with a police officer looking for every little mistake.
That is not a situation I’d bet my freedom on.
Field sobriety tests are governed by standards published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (“NHTSA”). They are “standardized,” meaning that they should be instructed, demonstrated, and performed, the same way every time. If they’re not, NHTSA’s own publications say they aren’t valid.
The officer is taught to look for defined “clues” on each test. If you demonstrate 2 clues or more, you will be deemed to have “performed poorly” on the test, and likely be arrested. You will see shortly, just how easily you can show two “clues.”
Otherwise know as “walking the line” or “walk a straight line,” this test is not close to as easy as its made to sound.
There are 8 possible clues on the Walk and Turn test that the officer is looking for. Remember, even 2 clues means jail. They are:
After completing this test, if you’ve managed to perform perfectly with only one mistake, you might, not be arrested, but you’ll have to take another test first.
This is where the officer moves a pen in front of your eyes and looks for jerking, or “nystagmus.” This jerking can indicate impairment. Unfortunately, there are dozens of other reasons your eyes may jerk and you’re not likely to know (and neither can the officer) why this jerking occurs.
Fortunately in Tennessee, our appellate courts have recognized that police officers aren’t doctors and that nystagmus can be a medical condition. For this reason, most officers will not be able to testify about the results of the HGN test in court.
But they will still use any swaying, failure to follow instructions, or other alleged “signs” of impairment on this test against you.
After these tests, the officer is tasked with deciding whether to arrest you based on all of your interactions with him or her.
I’ve seen many cases where the arrest decision was made long before these tests were ever performed and the tests were used purely as an evidence gathering tool or to justify an opinion that has already been formed. Remember, its the officer who is “grading” your test.
There is no legal requirement to do DUI field sobriety tests and its my opinion that you should never agree to perform these roadside gymnastics! Even if you pass the field sobriety tests, the officer can legally arrest you anyway!
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