When you get pulled over in Columbus and a police officer suspects you of OVI / DUI, the officer often will use the set of standard field sobriety tests in an effort to find enough cause to arrest you. These tests are designed to determine whether you can do two things at once, with the idea that if you’re impaired by alcohol it will be harder for you to divide your attention and focus on more than one task, such as balancing on one leg and counting out loud. The three standard tests used are the walk and turn test, one leg stand test, and horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
These tests are based on flawed science that fails to account for how any number of external factors may affect your performance on the test, and in general the tests don’t have a very high degree of reliability. Nonetheless, they are a popular tool used by law enforcement in OVI / DUI traffic stops. Because they’re used by virtually every law enforcement agency that does traffic stops, there are very specific standardized guidelines for how the tests should be performed. Those are published in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Manual, which is used to teach law enforcement officers how to perform the three standard tests.
There are several ways in which an experienced Columbus DUI attorney might challenge the tests and question the accuracy of your results.
- Improper Test Conditions — Standard roadside field sobriety tests should be performed on relatively flat, smooth, level, and dry surfaces. If there is rain, snow, or ice, or if the pavement is simply uneven, your ability to perform the walk and turn or the one leg stand might be adversely affected. If you wobble, the officer might arrest you for OVI / DUI when it’s really the road conditions and not your impairment that affected your performance.
- Improper Instruction — The officer should give you explicit instructions how to perform the test, and the instructions are standardized so that they should be the same every time the officer administers the test. If the officer gave you inadequate instructions or varied from the standard set of instructions, that may affect your ability to successfully perform the test.
- Improper Training — Law enforcement officers should get training in how to give the standard field sobriety tests so that the tests are administered in the same way every time. If the officer hasn’t been trained or has been inadequately trained, he or she may give you incorrect instructions or misinterpret your performance and erroneously arrest you for OVI / DUI.
- Improper Candidate — Not every person is a good candidate for field sobriety tests. People who are over age 65, or who are 50 or more pounds overweight tend to do poorly with these tests and may struggle to balance on one leg or to walk heel-to-toe. An officer should try to find another way to determine whether people in these categories are impaired by alcohol.
- Disability or Medical Conditions — Some medical conditions, such back, leg, or inner ear problems, may affect a person’s ability to do the one leg or walk and turn tests. A number of medical conditions or other circumstances can affect the involuntary motion of the eyes that the horizontal gaze nystagmus test is designed to catch. For example, someone with the flu or high blood pressure might experience the kind of jerking of the eye that a police officer may interpret as alcohol-related impairment. Even too much caffeine — a common condition among people taking long road trips — might contribute to involuntary jerking motion of the eyes.
If you’ve been arrested for DUI in Columbus based on the results of roadside field sobriety tests, a skilled Columbus criminal defense attorney may be able to help you fight the charge. Depending upon the unique circumstances of your case, your attorney may be able to challenge way the officer administered the test or how the officer interpreted the results. If the tests can be demonstrated to be inaccurate, your attorney may be able to negotiate dismissal of your case or a lesser charge with less drastic penalties than an OVI / DUI.
At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we can help you confront the Ohio criminal justice system from your arrest through to your trial. By advocating for your rights and thinking strategically about your case defense, we will maximize your chances of obtaining a positive case result. If you’ve been charged with OVI, call us today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.
Charged with DUI in Columbus? Contact Us.
If you’ve been charged with a OVI / DUI, it’s important to know what you’re up against. If you have any questions left unanswered by this page, or if you need a competent, experienced Columbus DUI attorney to fight for you in court, please contact us at (614) 500-3836 or via email at [email protected].