Field Sobriety Tests in Pennsylvania

Reading DUI Lawyer

If law enforcement suspects that a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they may choose to conduct field sobriety tests. These are often used to find probable cause for an arrest or to determine if there is a chance that the driver is intoxicated. There are standardized field sobriety tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as non- standardized tests that are used. The results of these tests are often used as evidence to convict a driver of a DUI offense. Unfortunately, the reliability and validity of these tests are not always accurate and can result in conviction of innocent people. With the help of a skilled DUI attorney in Reading, you can defend against the results of a field sobriety test and avoid a DUI conviction. Need a lawyer for your DUI case in Reading? I am Curtis E. Barnes, Attorney at Law and I have helped countless individuals facing DUI charges after performance on field sobriety tests, I can help you!

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

The field sobriety tests that have been standardized by the NHTSA include:

The Walk and Turn Test (WAT)- This test requires that the driver walk nine steps (heel-to-toe) on a straight line and then make a turn on one foot and take nine more steps back to the start. The line involved in this test can either be imaginary or a line painted on the ground. While the suspected driver performs the test, the officer will be looking for signs of intoxication, such as:

  • Stepping off the line
  • Not walking heel-to-toe
  • Swaying arms for balance
  • Incorrect number of steps
  • Improper turn

Unfortunately, with this type of test there are countless exterior factors that can affect the results. The types of shoes you are wearing, the type of ground you are on, the levelness of the surface, surrounding traffic and the existence of a painted line can all affect performance on this test.

The One Leg Stand Test (OLS) - This test requires the driver to stand on one foot while raising the other foot about six inches from the ground. Generally, the test will last about 30 seconds and the driver is required to count 'one thousand-one, one thousand-two' and so on. Similar to the walk and turn test, there are other factors that can play a role in a person's performance on this test. Having an injury, disability or physical condition that affects balance can alter performance as well as type of shoes, surface of the ground and surrounding traffic. While performing this test, the officer will look for all of the following:

  • Touching the foot to the ground
  • Swaying arms for balance
  • Incorrect counting
  • Not looking at your foot

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN) – This test requires the driver to follow a stimulus with their eyes. As the officer moves the stimulus from side to side, they will be looking for certain jerking fashions of the eye. If the jerking (Nystagmus) is irregular, it supposedly indicates intoxication but this is not highly reliable and generally not used as evidence for DUI in Pennsylvania.

Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in PA

Other tests used in Pennsylvania that are not approved by the NHTSA are the finger-to-nose test, ABC test, counting backwards test and the Romberg balance tests. While not being approved by the NHTSA, these tests can still play a role in the evidence against a driver in a DUI case. These tests do carry less weight in trial and can be challenged by an experienced DUI lawyer in Reading. Need an attorney for a DUI case in Pennsylvania? Contact a Reading DUI attorney to help you defend against your charges. I, Curtis E. Barnes, Attorney at Law, can help in building a defense and fighting against your charges.

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