Field Sobriety Tests

Standardized Field Sobriety Evaluations (SFST’s)

In Georgia, field sobriety tests are typically used by law enforcement during a DUI arrest to determine whether or not a person has been driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Although being pulled over and arrested for DUI is a frightening experience, field sobriety results can be challenged in a number of ways. The surest way to challenge those results, and retain your driving privileges, is by calling the right DUI defense attorney.

Carter/Pilgrim routinely defends clients who have been charged with driving under the influence in North Georgia. Our legal team has a well-earned reputation for providing our clients with aggressive legal representation and exceptional personal service. Well-versed in the applicable Georgia DUI laws, we know how to challenge field sobriety tests. When you work with our DUI attorneys, you can rest assured that dedicated advocates will be fighting for your rights.

How are Field Sobriety Tests Conducted in Georgia?

Three field sobriety tests are conducted in the state that has been standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) — Also known as the “eye test,” the arresting officer observes how the driver’s eyes react to external stimuli (e.g. following a flashlight or pen) to detect jerking movements (nystagmus) of the eyeball.
  • Walk and Turn — The driver is instructed to walk nine steps heel to toe along a straight line, turn and repeat.
  • One Leg Stand — The driver is instructed to raise one leg off of the ground and remain in that position for thirty seconds to determine if his or her balance has been affected due to impairment.

Additionally, officers often ask drivers to undergo other, nonstandardized field sobriety tests. Such tests have not been validated by the NHTSA or other authorities and may therefore not be indicative of impairment. The standardized tests have been analyzed, however, to suggest that there is a correlation between drug or alcohol impairment and an individual’s ability to drive.

Nonetheless, the attorneys at Carter/Pilgrim are keenly aware that the standardized field sobriety tests are highly subjective. Such tests are based on the observations of the arresting officer, and not everyone is a good candidate for each test. With the HGN test, for example, some individuals may have certain eye or health conditions that police frequently mistake as signs of impairment. Similarly, the walk and turn test may yield inaccurate results, particularly for those who may be injured, overweight or elderly.

Finally, the fact that such tests are “standardized” means that they must be administered according to strict guidelines. Any deviation from those guidelines may invalidate the test results. At the end of the day, it takes an experienced Georgia DUI attorney to challenge the results of a field sobriety test.

Why You Need Carter/Pilgrim to Defend Your DUI Charges

Being charged with DUI based on field sobriety test results does not mean a conviction is inevitable. Bear in mind that Georgia is an implied consent state, which means that anyone who obtains a driver’s license in the state agrees to be chemically tested (e.g. breathalyzer or blood test) to determine their blood alcohol content level (BAC). In any event, the first line of defense against DUI charges is successfully challenging the results of a field sobriety test.

At Carter/Pilgrim, we will take the time to understand the circumstances of your arrest. Were you pulled over for suspicion of DUI? Where you pulled over for a traffic violation and then arrested for DUI? Were you arrested at a DUI roadblock or checkpoint? In addition, we will conduct an extensive investigation by obtaining a copy of the police report and the video recording of the field sobriety test. We will also interview any witnesses, including the arresting officers.

Our team will then work strategically to attack the validity of the field sobriety test results. This starts by questioning the training and experience, or lack thereof, of the arresting officer who administered the test. The police must provide proper instructions on how to perform the test and consider the lighting, terrain and weather conditions as the test is being administered. If the police fail to provide adequate instructions or the test was conducted on a poorly lit or uneven road, the results of the field sobriety test may be invalidated. Lastly, we may be able to demonstrate that a physical condition — a disability, ear infection, vision problems, or other conditions affecting equilibrium and balance — negatively impacted your ability to perform the field sobriety test.

Metro Atlanta DUI Attorney

Don’t take a DUI charge lightly — a conviction can result in the loss of your driving privileges, fines, probation, and even imprisonment. With so much at stake, it is crucial to have an accomplished DUI attorney on your side. At Carter/Pilgrim, we have a proven track record of defending our clients against DUI charges by successfully challenging field sobriety tests. If you have been charged with DUI in the Metro Atlanta area, call our office today or complete the convenient online contact form to set up a free consultation.