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An overview of field sobriety tests

Thousands of Maryland residents are arrested each year on driving while intoxicated charges. The slightest road violation - failure to use a turn signal, a busted taillight or crossing the centerline - could lead to a traffic stop, which could then turn into a DUI investigation. When a police officer smells alcohol on a driver, one of the first steps is to start conducting field sobriety tests.

Field sobriety tests are fairly standard throughout America. While not infallible, they do provide police officers with an indication as to whether or not a driver might be intoxicated due to alcohol use or the use of illegal drugs. These tests can be challenged by the defendant in the pendency of the criminal case if they are not conducted correctly.

There are three types of field sobriety tests that are commonly conducted in the course of a DUI investigation. The first one is the "horizontal gaze nystagmus" test. In this test, the police officer will hold an object, such as a pen, in front of the suspect's face and move it from side to side while the suspect follows the movements with their eyes. In the test, the police officer is looking for involuntary jerkiness that may indicate intoxication.

Next, there is the "walk and turn" test. In this test, the suspect is asked to walk a straight line, heel to toe. Then, the suspect is to turn around and walk back. This is to check a suspect's ability to perform simple tasks and follow simple directions. Lastly, there is the "one-leg stand" test. In this test, the suspect is asked to balance on one leg for a short period of time. If the suspect bounces, hops or sways, it may be an indication of intoxication.

If a field sobriety test was administered incorrectly, the defendant may be able to challenge the results of the test in court. If you have been charged with DUI or other crime, you may wish to speak with an attorney regarding your case.

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Law Offices of
James N. Papirmeister, Esq.

Law Offices of James N. Papirmeister, Esq.
8630 Fenton St., Suite 320
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Office Number: 301-589-2100
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As Published in Washingtonian Magazine | Washington's Best Legal Minds | 2013