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Field Sobriety Tests in Nevada DUI Cases


Field sobriety tests are utilized by law enforcers in various states to determine whether an individual is under the influence of alcohols or drugs. Failing these tests will lead officers to believe that your diminished mental and physical faculties resulted from consuming alcohol or drugs.

If a Las Vegas police officer stops you for driving under the influence, you might be asked to perform field sobriety tests. These tests are actually optional but the arresting officer does not normally claim it to be so. Of course, there are consequences for your refusal as well as this might make it look like you are really using drugs or have been drinking and might submit you for full evidentiary testing.

It is legal to politely reject a field sobriety test. These tests check your agility and are designed to see whether or not you can take control of yourself without failing. A person who is not under the influence of controlled substances and alcohol will find it very easy to pass this kind of test.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

The state of Nevada has several standard sobriety test procedures that police officers themselves employ. The officers can also create their own test as long as it follows strict procedures that don’t violate a person’s rights.

Here is a brief list of the common sobriety tests used:

  • Walk and Turn – Walking with heel to toe for nine steps, a turn, and nine (9) steps back. The officer is looking for:
    • Unsteady balance
    • Falling
    • How much the arms are used for balance
    • How well the suspect follows instructions.
  • One Leg Stand – In this test, the driver will balance on one leg and count numbers or say the alphabet. The test is supposed to measure the driver’s ability to do two tasks at the same time. The officer is looking for:
    • Swaying
    • Hopping
    • Using arms for balance
    • Putting the foot down
    • Correctly counting numbers, or accurately reciting the alphabet.
  • The Pen Test, or HGN – Is also known as the “Nystagmus Test.” This test measures whether the eyes bounce when they are all the way to the left or the right. Historically, if someone fail this test, it is highly likely they have a BAC of .10 or above.
  • Stand With Feet Together and Tip the Head Backwards – This test will measure the driver’s balance.
  • Count the Number of Fingers the Officer Raises – This test is supposed to measure vision, and determine if it is blurry or not.
  • Rhomberg Stationary Balance Test – In this test, the driver stands with his feet together, and leans his head back to look up at the sky while holding out his arms to the side. This test measures balance.
  • Finger to Nose – This test requires the driver to close his eyes and touch his nose with his finger. This test measure coordination and balance.

Other tests may also be performed like breath, blood and urine tests. These are administered once you are arrested for alleged DWI. There’s no need to submit to a field sobriety test though but remember that refusal to do it might trigger even more suspicion.

Role of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The protocols that police officers use in administering field sobriety tests are issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This federal agency has concluded that the three FSTs Walk-and-Turn, HGN and One-Leg Stand are enough to accurately determine a driver’s ability to maneuver their vehicle safely.

However, there are several factors in this conclusion that are very important in DUI defense:

  1. The NHTSA provides training on how to administer these three FSTs correctly yet only a few officers have received this.
  2. The best accuracy rates of these tests are only 65 to 77%.
  3. Other factors unrelated to alcoholic intoxication can affect the results of the tests, such as poor lighting, bad weather, fatigue, nerves, intimidation, sickness, injury, or even unsecure footwear.

Field Sobriety Tests and DUI Defense

If you have been charged with DWI, it is important to acquire legal representation right away so you can start working on your defense.

You should be aware that even the field sobriety tests that are most widely regarded as effective are inaccurate about 30% of the time. This means one out of every three people arrested for DWI for failing FSTs are actually innocent. You need to contact a DUI lawyer Las Vegas if you find yourself in this situation so that your well-being can be protected.

With professional legal counsel, you can contend with the results of the field sobriety tests administered to you and help you fight off your DWI charges.

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