What is a standard field sobriety test?

When one is suspected of driving under the influence, it is common for law enforcement officers in West Virginia and elsewhere to perform a number of roadside tests to check for impairment. These tests are believed to be fairly accurate, but they are not without room for error. What is a standard field sobriety test, and what errors might be made while the test is being administered?

There are actually three components to a standard field sobriety test. These include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk and turn and the one-leg stand. Each of these is used in order to check a person's balance, attention level and physical ability -- among various other things.

It is believed that, if all three components are used together and appropriately, a standard field sobriety test can be highly accurate. In fact, a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that this test can indicate impairment 91 percent of the time. The problem, though, is that these test are highly subjective. They depend entirely on the judgments of the officers performing the tests.

When a standard field sobriety test is performed in West Virginia, it is not uncommon for officers to video record the event. This is a good thing, as it will allow the court to see if any errors were made during test administration or if an officer's judgment was not accurate. If a recording is not made of the testing, or the video is unclear or fails to capture the event in its entirety, any results submitted in court may not be allowed. In either case, it is possible to question the validity of field sobriety testing which, in turn, could benefit the accused as he or she fights DUI charges in court.

Source: FindLaw, "Field Sobriety Tests", Accessed on Oct. 31, 2015

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