It can be humiliating to be forced to perform roadside drunk driving tests as neighbors, friends or co-workers are passing along the road or highway. The Georgia State Patrol certainly does not make it any easier to pass the test, making it seem like you are guilty before you've even been tested. These tests can be difficult to complete even when completely sober, especially given that everyone feels nervous and anxious when they are stopped by the police, even when doing nothing wrong.

Under Georgia law, it is illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If a driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher, they are considered per se unlawfully intoxicated. However, before the police department or Georgia State Patrol arrests a driver for driving under the influence (DUI), they will try and gather evidence to justify the arrest, including having the driver participate in field sobriety tests, to gauge their level of intoxication.

Atlanta Field Sobriety Tests

It is against the law to drink and drive with a blood alcohol level over .08% BAC. After being arrested for drunk driving, the police will take the driver to the police station to get a blood, breath or urine sample that will show whether they are over the legal limit. However, before the driver is arrested, the police will try to conduct field sobriety tests in order to gather evidence to justify an arrest.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has helped to develop a standard set of roadside tests, to identify people who may be intoxicated. The police and NHTSA say how reliable these tests are, but many sober people can “fail” the tests if the police don't give proper instructions. Others find it very difficult to do the tests because of the pressure surrounding a possible DUI, or because of medical conditions.

The three standardized tests include the HGN eye test, the one leg stand test, and the walk and turn test.

One Leg Stand: The One Leg Stand Test is one of the least reliable field sobriety tests. The Georgia State Trooper or police officer will have the driver stand on one leg for a full 30 seconds, waiting for them to lose balance. Even under the best conditions, many people cannot pass this test. On the roadside, this is even harder to pass, with uneven gravel roads and cars speeding by only feet away.

Walk and Turn: The Walk and Turn Test seems simple, but is really a way for police to catch you making any wrong move. The trooper or officer will give the driver a series of instructions for walking heel-to-toe nine steps, turn and repeat. If you take one false step, or start too early, or slightly lose your balance on a crack in the road, they may say you failed the test. This is especially hard for people who are overweight or elderly, or have medical conditions making this test nearly impossible.

HGN Eye Test: The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN), is one of the most reliable field sobriety tests, according to the NHTSA. The officer will ask you to follow a pen or penlight back and forth while they watch your eye movement, looking for jittering movement. However, there are a lot of things that can result in a failed test, even if you're not intoxicated. The police may ask you to perform this test, even if they already think you might be intoxicated, which doesn't even give you a fair chance to pass these inaccurate tests.

You Can Say “No”

These tests can be hard, if not impossible for some people to perform sober. You won't get any special treatment if you pass all the tests. If the police think you are intoxicated even after passing all three tests, they may still arrest you. There is no need to perform these embarrassing, convoluted, and unreliable tests, that can only harm you. In the State of Georgia, these tests are not required. If you do not want to perform any field sobriety tests, simply and politely tell the officer, “I have been advised by my lawyer not to perform any field sobriety tests,” and have the number of your DUI defense lawyer at hand.

Field Sobriety Test Training

According to the NHTSA, standardization and consistency is what makes these field sobriety tests more reliable. So the state patrol and police go through a training course on how they are to conduct these tests. However, they may not always follow the proper instructions or may not be observing the test properly. This is why you need a DUI defense lawyer who has the same field sobriety test training, to know what to look for when the police didn't treat you fairly in giving you a roadside test.

Atlanta DUI Defense

Just because you failed some field sobriety tests does not mean you are guilty of drunk driving. These tests aren't always reliable especially if the police didn't give you the proper instructions. I have received the same NHTSA DUI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing as Georgia police officers. If you are charged with driving under the influence, give me a call. We can discuss what happened, and decide how best to defend your rights.