DUI – DWI Gotchas! 3 Popular Police Drunk Driving Tests
Posted on Mar 12, 2008 in DUI/DWI, Local Issues, Traffic
If you haven’t heard it before now, then here it is: no DUI – DWI defense attorney is going to recommend that you voluntarily take a Breathalizer test when you’re pulled over for suspicion of driving drunk.
Why? Because it will give a reading on your BAC (blood alcohol content) that will automatically correlate with the state law definition of intoxication. State laws across the country define driving drunk by the percentage of alcohol in the blood stream. Usually it’s at 0.08%.
Someone who doesn’t feel tipsy, or with even the slightest buzz, can still read drunk on a Breathalizer. It’s very hard to defend against those numbers.
So, what can the police do if they pull you over, and you just say no to the machine?
They can give you “field sobriety tests” which you’ve probably seen a lot, if you watch Fox TV’s COPS with any regularity ….
Three of the most popular field sobriety tests are the One Leg Stand, the Walk and Turn, and the HGN.
One Leg Stand
This is the test where the police officer asks the subject to imitate a whooping crane. Here, you stand on one foot, and hold your other foot at least 6 inches off the ground, while counting out loud “one thousand-one, one thousand-two, etc.” until you’re told to stop. Actually, the cop is timing you for 30 seconds, and she’s looking for (1) swaying while you’re standing there; (2) any use of arms to stay balanced; (3) any hopping on one foot to stay balanced; and (4) putting the other foot down before you’re told it’s okay to do so.
NHTSA reports that 83% of those who fail the One Leg Stand will have a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
Walk and Turn / Walking the Line
Just like it sounds, the test involves taking nine steps, heel-toe, heel-toe, along a straight line. After the nine steps, you turn on one foot, and come back the same way. The police officer will be watching for 8 things: (1) ability to keep one’s balance while listening to his instructions; (2) waits until the instructions are finished before beginning the test — drunks are impatient; (3) any stops to regain balance during the test, or swaying; (4) any steps off the line; (5) any failure to follow heel-toe; (6) doesn’t take nine steps as required; (7) doesn’t turn properly; and (8) any using of the arms to keep balance while walking the line.
NHTSA studies reveal that 79% of those who fail the test will have a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
HGN / Follow My Finger
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (say that three times fast, right?) checks the eyes’ ability to foucs on an object as it moves. HGN technically means the involuntary jerks a human eye makes as it gazes to the left or right. A sober person will have HGN will her eyes are rotated at high angles; a drunk person will have this jerking exaggerated, and much sooner in the eye movement. Plus, a drunk person will likely have problems following a moving object with her eyes. The police here look for three things: (1) if each eye cannot follow his finger, or flashlight, or ballpoint pen easily; (2) if either eye starts to clearly jerk when the eye is looking far left or far right; and (3) if either eye starts jerking about halfway from center.
NHTSA studies have shown that 88% of those failing an HGN test have a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
For more information:
National Highway Traffic and Safety Association