Field Sobriety Tests According to a Drunk Driving Attorney

Field sobriety tests are often referred to as divided attention tests.  They are designed to measure an individual’s ability to listen and process information as well as his or her coordination.  The three standard field sobriety tests in Massachusetts are the nine step walk and turn test, the one leg stand test, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.

The nine step walk and turn test is a balancing test where the subject is asked to walk nine steps in a straight line, touching heel to toe, with arms by his/her sides.  The person is then asked to turn, using several small pivoted steps, followed by a return nine steps in the same fashion to the starting position.

The one leg stand test is another standardized test where the subject is asked to raise the leg of his choice six inches off the ground, with toes pointed forward, keeping the arms by the sides.  The person performing the test will normally be asked to keep his foot off the ground for thirty seconds, or until the officer says to stop.

The final standardized field sobriety test in Massachusetts is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.  According to the field of forensic ophthalmology, there is a correlation between the consumption of alcohol and nystagmus, which is the involuntary movement of the eye.  The theory is that you can detect impairment by checking an individual’s eye to see if there is this involuntary movement.

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is inadmissible under Massachusetts law, however, in the absence of expert testimony to qualify the expert, and to explain the correlation between alcohol consumption and nystagmus.  As always, if you or someone you know is charged with DUI, contact a drunk driving attorney who will fight for you and your rights.

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