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Standardized Field Sobriety Exercises

As a Tampa DUI law firm one of our primary jobs in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecutors case is to examine the evidence after the DUI stop but before you are placed in handcuffs and taken to jail. Examples of tests performed to determine your impairment after a DUI stop include the finger to nose test, the one leg stand test, walk and turn test and HGN/VGN test. These various tests that DUI trained officers use after the DUI stop to determine your level of impairment are known as the Field Sobriety Tests or Exercises (FSE’s or FST’s). The Tampa Bay DUI Attorneys at Pallegar Law, P.A. examine these exercises closely because they play a huge part in determining whether your case will get dismissed, reduced or will have to be resolved as charged. Essentially, you may not want to go to trial on your case if the video of these tests looks bad.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) helped develop what is known today as the Standard Field Sobriety Exercises to determine the level of drug or alcohol impairment of drivers. NHTSA’s primary responsibility is to reduce deaths, injuries, and economic losses from car accidents. NHTSA not only was a motivating factor in creating the FSE’s but also promotes the use of child safety seats, seat belts and air bags.

There tests developed by NHTSA include, but not limited to:

  1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): defined as an involuntary jerking of the eyes as they move from left to right and vice versa. Not only can HGN be caused by overconsumption of alcohol, but can also be caused by brain injury or head trauma. A small percentage of the public suffer from naturally induced HGN with no alcohol consumption. This could be due to other drugs, brain damage, illness, or other causes. Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation with the angle of onset and your BAC. As you drink more your angle of onset decreases.

  2. Walk and Turn test: the subject walks 9 steps touching heel-to-toe and than returns 9 steps also touching heel-to-toe. A preexisting injury or health condition could affect your ability to perform this test.

  3. One Leg Stand: requires an individual to raise his or her leg in the air and hold it in a fixed position while counting typically for thirty seconds starting at one thousand. Your eyes must stay open.

  4. Romberg: keeping feet together a person is instructed to tip his or her head back, eyes closed, and arms down at the sides. (Balance test)

  5. Finger Count: the subject is instructed to count each finger in succession. Counting aloud. For example, 1-2-3-4-5-5-4-3-2-1.

These tests focus on challenging your ability to follow instructions and perform physical activities simultaneously. These tests are not pass or fail but subjectively decided entirely up to law enforcement. Keep in mind that although NHTSA was the catalyst behind FSE’s, NHTSA as an agency does none of its own studies. The studies are contracted to third parties that write a grant proposal that is ultimately approved by NHTSA after review. These studies are not peer reviewed which Tampa DUI Lawyers feel is an important factor to verify any study or experiments reliability.

If you have performed FSE after a DUI arrest and have questions about whether the tests were administered properly contact an experienced Tampa DUI Attorney at Pallegar Law, P.A. today by calling 813-444-3912.

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