Pop quiz: What do you know about the Massachusetts field sobriety tests? After reading this, we hope you'll have a better understanding of the requirements surrounding the methods police use to test potential OUI offenders.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has developed three standardized tests that police often use to determine if a person is operating under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. While the prosecution often uses the results of a field sobriety test against an OUI defendant in court, qualified defense teams are more than prepared to fight back due to the inaccuracies surrounding such test methods. For example, certain conditions must be followed such as administering testing on hard, dry, flat surfaces in a safe place.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
During this roadside test, a police officer will ask a driver to follow an object (usually a lighted pen) with their eyes only. From left to right, the driver must look at the object wherever it moves without turning their head. The police officer will look to see if the eyeballs are jerking (nystagmus). This type of eye movement can be caused by alcohol consumption, however many people suffer from a natural nystagmus.
One Leg Stand
This test is a physical and instructional examination. The officer must first demonstrate how to properly stand on one leg and maintain balance. The officer will then ask the driver to do the same. To properly complete the test, the driver will raise one foot a few inches off the ground and hold composure for about 30 seconds while counting out loud. Swaying, using your arms for balance and putting your foot down can be deemed as signs of alcohol consumption since alcohol affects motor skills.
Walk and Turn
Ready to forward march? This physical and instructional test also allows officers to examine if a person has been operating under the influence. Before you begin the test, the officer must show you what is expected. Using a line (sometimes imaginary!) the driver must take nine steps, each time with the heel of one foot touching the toe of the other foot. Every step, the driver must count out loud. On the ninth step, the driver must pivot and repeat until the test is over. Again, the officer will look for signs of alcohol consumption such as swaying, missing a step, forgetting to count out loud and more.