In an effort to test a motorist’s sobriety and gather evidence of intoxication for a Westchester County DWI arrest. State and local police will request a motorist perform Field Sobriety Tests (FST). These tests are almost always conducted on the side of the road before a motorist is told they are under arrest for DWI.
The FST are never done in an ideal condition. It is usually nighttime, with traffic moving quickly by and the glare of headlights or the lights of a police car. These tests are also subject to the weather. It can be excessively hot or cold, raining or snowing. In addition, on the best day the instructions for the tests are hard to follow and perform.
Sometimes, motorists are stopped for DWI when in fact they are just overly tired, ill, distracted, or under extreme duress. The most common FST are the following:
· Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
· Walk & Turn
· One Leg Stand
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test. During this test you are asked to look at a pen as it is moved from left to right and back again in front of your eyes. Nystagmus is an involuntary bouncing or jerking of the eyeball that is caused by a disturbance of the inner ear system or the oculomotor control of the eye. Substances that affect your nervous system such as alcohol or drugs can result in this involuntary bouncing or jerking of the eyes. If there is a high degree of impairment the “nystagmus” or bouncing or jerking of the eyes will become more pronounced.
Defenses to theHorizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. Common defenses to this test include extreme temperatures, illness, inner ear conditions, eye disease, Neurologic disorders (such as multiple sclerosis or epilepsy), medication,cardiovascular disease, stress and fatigue.
Walk and Turn. The walk and turn test, the motorist is told to take nine, heel to toe steps along a straight line. Most of the time the line is imaginary and does not actually exist. This test focuses on “divided attention” and tests the motorist’s ability to follow instructions while performing physical movements.
Defenses to the Walk and Turn Test. Common defenses include, poor test instructions, poor conditions the test was given under, weight of the motorist, mobility problems, difficulty balancing, problems with feet, illness or injury.
One Leg Stand. In the One Leg Stand test, the individual must stand with one foot six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands. Officers will look for an inability to balance in determining whether or not the subject is intoxicated.
Defenses to the One Leg Stand test include, poor instructions regarding how to take the test, medical condition, medication, weight, mobility issues, injury, uneven ground, poor weather and wearing high heels, tight clothing or other attire that affected your ability to stand.
The above tests have been standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and are considered the most reliable of the FSTs. But even under perfect conditions, standardized FSTs are only accurate predictors of inebriation 65-77% of the time.
Call our Westchester County DWI Lawyers for Help
* Former Westchester County Prosecutors
* Over 23 years of Experience
* Published authors in DWI law and defense.
Did you “fail” a Westchester County field sobriety test? Were you arrested as a result for DWI, DWAI or DWI Drugs? New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1192.
Our experienced Westchester County DWI attorneys have defended clients for decades in the Westchester County local and superior courts.
We challenge arrests based on the Field Sobriety Test results. We know that there are many reasons why you may not have performed well. Our goal is to challenge these tests and create reasonable doubt in our negotiations with the District Attorney, Judge and if necessary at a trial.
If you were charged with a Westchester County DWI offense, call our office for a free initial consultation. We will respond quickly to your call to our office, usually right away or within a few hours. We want to know what happened, discuss legal strategy and your options. Do not let a Field Sobriety Test deprive you of your liberty, employment or your right to drive.
Call DWI attorneys Andrew Proto or David Sachs at (914) 946-4808.