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What are the common types of field sobriety tests?

In Oklahoma, as in many states, there are three tests commonly used to conduct field sobriety screenings. They are the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. All three are used to determine whether an individual is driving while impaired. The failure to pass these tests may result in DUI charges.

Following is a brief description of each of the three field sobriety tests. Both the one-leg stand and walk-and-turn tests are considered as divided attention tests. These physical tests are easy to perform while sober, but reportedly difficult for an impaired person. The tests require a person to follow spoken instructions while either walking and turning or standing on one leg. The HGN test looks for the involuntary jerking of the eyeball, which becomes more pronounced in an intoxicated person. To perform the test, an officer asks the person to follow a slow moving object while observing the person's eye movements.

A criminal defense lawyer may evaluate whether a defendant was subjected to roadside sobriety tests. These tests may be worth challenging in court because they provide weak evidence for intoxication. For example the divided attention tests require a person to stand or walk. If the roadway or sidewalk is uneven, the person may be unsteady on his or her feet, even when sober.

In order to find a person guilty, the judge or jury must be persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was driving while impaired. The unreliable nature of roadside sobriety tests may place doubt in the minds of either the judge or jurors. An experienced criminal defense attorney can assist in challenging the results or procedures used.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "The Highway Safety Desk Book", November 25, 2014

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