Field Sobriety Tests

Police officers in North Carolina commonly conduct field sobriety tests before arresting a driver for DWI. The tests are supposed to indicate whether the driver is impaired as a result of alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, though, the tests are not always accurate. Other conditions — such as a medical issue or physical impairment — can also affect the outcome.

Police officers cannot require drivers to engage in field sobriety tests on a whim. Rather, they must have a proper legal basis to justify traffic stops, and they must have adequate legal grounds to conduct field sobriety tests. If these grounds did not exist in your case, you may be able to suppress (keep out of court) the results of the field sobriety test.

Standard Field Sobriety Tests

In North Carolina, the standard field sobriety tests include:

  • Walk-and-turn test: By requiring you to walk in a straight line, one foot in front of the other, the police officer can judge your balance. Other factors such as physical impairments or even uncomfortable shoes can throw off your balance. The police officer may also ask you to take a certain number of steps, testing your ability to remember that number and accurately keep track of your steps.
  • One-leg stand test: As in the walk-and-turn test, the police officer may assess your balance by requiring you to stand on one leg for 30 seconds. The officer will also judge your mental state by whether you are able to count to 30.
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test (eye test): This test involves requiring you to follow a light, pen or other object with your eyes. The police officer will observe whether your gaze is jerky, which can indicate impairment. However, other medical conditions or prescription medications can also cause a similar result.

To be effective, these tests must be administered properly. Sloppiness can potentially be grounds for having the test results suppressed.

Developing A Strategy For Your Case

Field sobriety tests are not ironclad evidence. They can often be suppressed or challenged. Much depends on the unique circumstances of your case.

At The Law Office of Kevin L. Barnett, we can analyze the elements of your case to determine the best strategy for challenging the charges and mitigating the consequences. With more than 30 years of experience in criminal law, we understand how to develop strong cases for our clients.

Free Consultation | Charlotte Office

Take advantage of a free, no-obligation consultation with our DWI attorney by contacting us at 704-899-5574 (Charlotte). We serve clients throughout Western North Carolina.

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