If you’ve been pulled over and arrested for DUI in Georgia, chances are the officer administered field sobriety testing to strengthen his DUI case against you. These tests, designed in the late 1970s under the direction of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), usually have two main fatal flaws. (1) Error in the administration of the tests and (2) error in the methodology used to score the tests. Having a defense attorney who knows these tests, and is trained on their administration will enable you to fight your case to the fullest, oftentimes having these tests thrown out, or relied upon very little by your prosecuting attorney.
Under NHTSA’s training protocol, there are three main tests given in the field sobriety battery: the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, the one-leg-stand test, and the walk-and-turn test. Additionally, NHTSA training suggests the use of other divided attention tasks in evaluating a suspected DUI driver. Some common tasks are a variation of reciting your alphabet, stating the correct time, without looking at a watch or clock, or simply asking the driver to perform two or more tasks at once, such as retrieving their license while explaining to the officer how long they were at their last location.
Law enforcement personnel are trained to look for every clue of impairment they can possible spot from the time you are first spotted on the road in your vehicle, to the time you are booked into the jail and they are off to write their report. However, in real life, officers rely heavily, almost exclusively, on field sobriety testing when making the decision to arrest you for DUI. Having spotted the ‘red eyes’ or the ever present ‘slurred speech’ is just the icing on the cake for an officer making a DUI arrest in Georgia. With field sobriety testing weighing so heavily on the officer’s arrest decision, it is important to have an attorney who will attack these tests.
The first common error is in the administration of these tests. That is, the officer simply gives you incorrect instructions or fails to perform the tests as required by him or her. Having an attorney that knows word-for-word and step-by-step how these field sobriety tests are to be administered will always benefit your DUI defense.
The second flaw in testing is the methodology used to score these tests. Countless studies have been performed examining the scoring of these tests, and many lead to the conclusion that they are unfairly flawed, to say the least. These field sobriety tests are no more than agility test, designed to fail with their unbalanced and weighted scoring system. For example, there are at least 76 ways to get docked on the walk-and-turn performance, yet the cop only needs to see 2 or more indicators in order to fail you on the test. Only missing 2 of 76 may seem like an “A+” to most people, but it will surely help bolster your arresting officer’s DUI arrest in Georgia. An attorney must be willing to question these tests, to explain to prosecutors, judges and juries why they are fatally flawed and should not hold weight in a Georgia DUI case.