Standardized Field Sobriety Test

The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) is comprised of three different tests that have been formed through the sponsored research of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These tests were formally done and found to have a certain level of authenticity for pinpointing who has been drinking. It can also offer an idea of how much a person has consumed or the level of alcohol within a person’s system.

Alcohol affects everyone differently and some may have had one drink and still have the same influence as another person that has had a few drinks. Some of the main factors to consider with drinking are size, when alcohol was consumed and how much. The tests are meant to take these factors into consideration and not so much look at how much a person has drinking but how it is personally affecting them. When an officer has reason to believe a driver has been drinking they can choose to pull them over and use one, all or a combination of these tests. There are three tests and they are as follows:

HGN Test

This test will evaluation what is referred to as nystagmus. This is the jerking of the eye that occurs involuntarily. There is more than one reason that it can come up, but one of these includes the influence of alcohol on a person’s system. The eye will normally be taken out to the side at maximum deviate but for those that have consumed a certain amount of alcohol, the eye can start to jerk back sooner than it should. This test will be done in three ways on both eyes. The first will be to have the suspect follow an object and see if they can do so smoothly. Next will be to assess if there is any unnatural jerking that takes place when the eye is brought out to maximum deviation. The eye should be taken out to the side for a few seconds to make sure that an officer does not misread the nystagmus. Lastly, will be to determine if the jerking took place prior to the eye begin brought out to a 45 degree angle from its center. These three exams are done on both eyes.

One Leg Stand

This test will require the suspect to balance on one leg, with their foot about six inches from the ground, as opposed to just hovering over it. They will need to remain that way for thirty seconds and should count by thousands out loud so that the officer can hear them. An officer will be assessing them in a number of ways. They will be looking at if they are able to balance, if they need to use their arms to stay up, if they are swaying back and forth or if they have to put their foot down. Their testing found that around 83 percent of people that show at least two of these signs are likely to have a blood alcohol content level (BAC) of .08 percent or more.

Walk and Turn

This test can seem straightforward to a suspect but the officer will actually be reviewing a number of areas. Not only do they want to see that they can carry out the request, but that they are able to listen and apply the instruction of the officer. They will need to walk along a straight line for nine steps, putting their heel to toe each time. Once they reach the end they will pivot on their foot and come back in the same way they started. Officers will be looking at if the suspect starts before instructed to, if they can’t balance and listen to the officer, if they fall from the line, turn wrong, don’t touch heel to toe, have to stop for balance, use their arms or take the wrong amount of steps. From this exam it is believed that 70 percent of suspects that show a minimum of two of these factors are likely to have a BAC level that is at .08 percent or above.

These tests can be combined to increase their accuracy but it is important to recognize there are faults to them. There are a number of reasons that a test can be wrong and the findings of it can put an innocent person in a bad light. Other factors can come in to play, such as when a suspect is nervous and more likely to fumble. They can appear out of their normal behavior and may make mistakes that they would not typically make. Officers are trained to conduct these tests but they are not full proof. It can be easy for them to make an error and see a person as guilty before giving them a fair chance.

A lot of the tests can be done incorrectly and based off opinion of an officer. These are not guaranteed fact in the court and it is important to put the seed of doubt in the mind of the judge or jury. Chemical tests may be done as well and these too can have faults. Speak with a Bergen County criminal lawyer immediately after your arrest. It is best to remain silent until your attorney is present and advises you that it is ok to speak. Call our office immediately and we will begin defending you from the very beginning.

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