Connecticut Field Sobriety Tests
Representing Individuals Charged with DUI
In the state of Connecticut, field sobriety tests are a standardized method used by law enforcement officials to determine, or assist in determining, whether or not probable cause exists to arrest an individual for DUI. When an officer suspects that a person has been driving under the influence, they will usually ask them to exit their vehicle to perform a field sobriety test. These tests utilize physical tasks that the person will need to perform to prove that they are capable of safely driving their vehicle.
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Types of Field Sobriety Tests
The three types of field sobriety tests utilized by law enforcement are:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus
- One-leg stand
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
During the HGN test, police officers look for an involuntary movement of the eye that can be caused by alcohol consumption or certain types of drugs. While this test may sometimes be accurate in determining whether or not an individual is under the influence, the studies surrounding HGN testing have not been done rigorously and many false-positives result due to a variety of other factors.
How Is the Test Administered?
The HGN test is supposed to be given in a standardized manner by police officers while you are standing outside of your vehicle. First, they will ask you to remove your glasses and keep your head still as you follow the stimulus with your eyes only. The stimulus could be an object such as a finger, pen or penlight that is held approximately 12 to 15 inches away from your face. It is held slightly above eye level as they move it from a standard position to the right, back to the center, and then to the left.
Aside from alcohol consumption, HGN can also be caused by:
- Certain medical conditions:
1. Problems With The Inner Ear Labyrinth
2. Irrigating The Ears With Warm Or Cold Water Under Peculiar Weather Conditions
4. Streptococcus Infection
9. Muscular Dystrophy
10. Multiple Sclerosis
11. Korchaff’s Syndrome
12. Brain Hemorrhage
15. Motion Sickness
18. Eye Muscle Fatigue
20. Changes In Atmospheric Pressure
21. Consumption Of Excessive Amounts Of Caffeine
22. Excessive Exposure To Nicotine
24. Circadian Rhythms
25. Acute Trauma To The Head
26. Chronic Trauma To The Head
27. Some Prescription Drugs, Tranquilizers, Pain Medications, Anti-Convulsants
29. Disorders Of The Vestibular Apparatus And Brain Stem
30. Cerebellum Dysfunction
34. Exposure To Solvents, PCB’s, Dry-Cleaning Fumes, Carbon Monoxide
35. Extreme Chilling
37. Continuous Movement Of The Visual Field Past The Eyes
38. Antihistamine Use
Source of these is Attorney Jamie Balagia. Also, these sources are mentioned in the NHTSA Training Seminars. The cops are taught about these conditions.
The walk-and-turn test is generally the second test given, after the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. The walk-and-turn test consists of an instructional stage—where the officer will read instructions from a card—and a walking stage, where the individual will complete the test.
Steps of the Walk-and-Turn Test
- “Put your left foot on the line and put your right foot in front with your heel touching your left toe.”
- “Do not start until I tell you to.”
- “Do you understand the directions?”
- “When I tell you to begin, take nine heel-to-toe steps on the line. Turn around keeping one foot on the line and return in nine heel-to-toe steps.”
- The officer will demonstrate what he means by “heel-to-toe” steps.
- On the ninth step, the officer will say, “keep the front foot on the line and turn by taking several small steps with the other foot.”
- “Watch your feet at all times. Keep your arms at your side. Count the steps out loud. Once you begin, do not stop until the test is completed.”
- “Do you understand the instructions?”
- “You may begin the test.”
The one-leg stand test is known as a “divided attention” test, meaning that an individual’s attention is simultaneously divided between correctly performing a mental and a physical task.
One-Leg Test Instructions
- “Stand with your heels together and your arms down at your side.”
- “When I tell you, raise one of your legs six inches above the ground and hold that same position while counting out loud 1001, 1002, 1003, and so forth while watching your foot.”
- “Do you understand the instructions?”
- “You may begin the test.”
If the suspect sways, hops, uses their arms to balance, or puts their foot down, they may be suspected of being under the influence. Unfortunately, the one-leg stand test is often inaccurate in determining whether or not an individual is under the influence of alcohol. In addition to this, police officers may not administer the test correctly and use a false-positive as a reason to arrest and charge a suspect with DUI.
Are You Required To Do a Field Sobriety Test?
While police officers are not mandated to administer the tests, they will ask the driver to perform them in almost every DUI investigation. In addition to this, under the Fifth Amendment, drivers who have been suspected of committing a DUI are not obligated to do anything that could incriminate them, which includes taking field sobriety tests. If you were arrested for DUI after taking a field sobriety test, Steven A. Tomeo & Associates, LLC can represent you in this matter.
Complications with Field Sobriety Tests
DUI cases that involve field sobriety tests are often complicated. By simply making one mistake, law enforcement officials can say that you did not perform the tests to the standard.
There are many issues that can adversely impact a field sobriety test, such as:
- Nervousness from individuals taking the test
- Complicated & lengthy instructions
- The emotional stress of being arrested
- The flashing lights of the police officers car
- Noise from the traffic at the scene
- A person’s physical conditioning
- Weather conditions
In addition to this, the police report version of what transpired during the tests may not be a completely accurate portrayal. Field sobriety tests are essentially used to boost a police officer’s conclusion that a driver is under the influence.
Connecticut DUI Lawyers Extensively Investigating All Sides of the Story
At Steven A. Tomeo & Associates, LLC, we know that there is usually far more to the whole story than what law enforcement provides. Making a mistake on a field sobriety test does not necessarily mean that you were driving under the influence. Our Connecticut DUI attorneys will extensively investigate the entire situation from all sides, determine if errors or violations were committed by police officers during the investigation, and put together the strongest possible defense on your behalf.