If you have been arrested for DUI (impaired driving) in Durham NC, you may be wondering what your options are for defending yourself in court.
One important aspect of DUI/DWI defense is understanding the use of standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs), which are commonly used by law enforcement officers to determine if a driver is impaired.
In this blog post, we will explain what SFSTs are, how they work, and what your rights are when it comes to taking them. We’ll also discuss defenses to DUI charges in Durham and why it’s a good idea to retain legal counsel.
Field Sobriety Testing can be incredibly important to the Arrest Decision and Probable Cause. The charging officer should comply with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration test protocols – Cole Williams, Durham DWI Defense Lawyer
What are Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs)?
Standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) are a battery of three tests that law enforcement officers often use to determine whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The standardized three tests are:
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test involves the police officer observing the driver’s eyes as they track a moving object, such as a pen, finger, or a flashlight. During the HGN test, the officer is looking for involuntary jerking of the eyes, which may be interpreted as an indication of impairment.
- Walk-and-Turn (WAT) Test involves the driver taking nine steps along a straight line, then turning around and taking nine steps back. The officer is looking for a variety of indicators of impairment, such as difficulty balancing, using arms for balance, improper turn, not touching heel to toe, stepping off a real or imaginary line, and starting before being instructed.
- One-Leg Stand (OLS) Test involves the driver standing on one leg while counting out loud for a specified amount of time. The officer is looking for indicators of impairment, also known as the OLS “clues,” such as swaying, using arms for balance, putting foot down, or hopping.
How Do SFSTs Work?
When an officer suspects a driver of DUI, they will typically administer SFSTs to gather evidence of impairment. The tests are designed to be standardized, meaning that they are administered in a specific way and evaluated using specific criteria.
A standardized field sobriety test is to be administered in the instructed, proscribed manner. Failure to do so compromises the validity of the field sobriety test – Cole Williams, DUI Defense Attorney in Durham NC
All the standardized tests, including the one-leg stand test (OLS), “walk and turn test” (OLS), and the HGN tests should be confirmed with either a breath test (EC/IR II Intoximeter) or a chemical blood alcohol test (forensic chemical test) using Gas Chromatography.
There are many factors that can affect the results of SFSTs, including physical disabilities, medical conditions, and environmental factors such as the surface of the ground. You need not be “drunk driving” to have problems performing a standardized field sobriety test.
After administering the tests, the officer will evaluate the driver’s performance and determine whether they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol (appreciably impaired). The results of the SFSTs may be used as evidence in court, but they are not infallible and can be effectively challenged by an experienced DUI defense lawyer in certain circumstances.
What are My Rights When It Comes to SFSTs?
If you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI in Durham, NC, you have the right to refuse to take SFSTs. Failure to comply is not illegal and cannot be used as a basis for suspension of your driver’s license. It’s important to note that refusing SFSTs does not necessarily mean that you will not be charged with DUI, as officers can still use other evidence to support their case.
If you do decide to take SFSTs, it’s important to remember that you have the right to an independent blood or breath test to confirm the results. You also have the right to an experienced DUI defense lawyer to represent you in court and challenge the results of the SFSTs.
FAQ about DWI charges in Durham
What should I do if I’m pulled over on suspicion of DUI in Durham NC?
If you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI, it’s important to remain calm and respectful to the officer. You have the right to refuse SFSTs. If you decide to take SFSTs, it’s important to remember that you have the right to an independent blood or breath test to confirm the results.
Can SFSTs be challenged in court?
Yes, SFSTs can be challenged in court, when appropriate. An experienced DUI defense lawyer may challenge the results of the tests by examining factors such as the officer’s administration of the tests, the conditions under which they were administered, and the driver’s physical and medical conditions that may have affected the results.
What if I have a physical disability or medical condition that affects my ability to perform SFSTs?
If you have a physical disability or medical condition that affects your ability to perform SFSTs, you should inform the officer of this fact. The officer may still ask you to perform the tests, but your DUI defense lawyer may be able to effectively challenge the results in court based on your physical limitations and possibly prevent their admission into evidence.
What if I have been drinking, but I don’t feel impaired?
Even if you don’t feel impaired, you may still be charged with DUI if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above the legal limit. It’s important to remember that the effects of alcohol can vary widely depending on factors such as your weight, metabolism, and how much you have had to eat.
Can I still be charged with DUI if I refuse SFSTs?
Yes, you can still be charged with DUI even if you refuse SFSTs. Officers can use other evidence to support their case, such as the blood or breath test results, your driving behavior, and your appearance or behavior at the time of the traffic stop.
Should I take SFSTs if I’ve been drinking?
It’s ultimately up to you whether or not to take SFSTs if you’ve been drinking. However, it’s important to remember that SFSTs are not infallible and can be affected by a variety of factors. If you decide to take SFSTs, it’s important to remember your rights and consult with an experienced DUI defense lawyer to challenge the results if necessary.
When is the best time to hire a DWI lawyer?
We think the best time to hire a DWI lawyer is as soon as possible after you have been charged with DUI. An experienced DUI defense lawyer can help you understand your rights, explain the potential consequences of the charge, and challenge the results of SFSTs in court, if necessary. The earlier you hire an attorney, the better chance you will have
Durham DUI Defense – Cole Williams
If you have been charged with DUI in Durham, NC, it’s important to consult with an experienced DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. At the Cole Williams Law Firm, we are committed to providing aggressive and knowledgeable legal representation for clients facing DUI charges.
We understand the serious implications of a conviction and will fight for your rights – Cole Williams, Durham Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with DUI in Durham, contact us today for a free consultation. Contact us today and don’t wait until it’s too late!