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Dealing with a Dwi – Dui Charge

The risks and costs of driving while intoxicated are now greater than ever. U.S. state legislatures have passed increasingly stringent DUI and DWI laws over the past three decades. In a show of cooperation with state governments, police departments around the country have also recently devised new ways to catch and charge intoxicated drivers.

The field sobriety test

A patrolling police officer spots a car that’s swerving from lane to lane and making unusually wide turns. Suspicious, he turns on his siren, pulls the driver over and asks him for his license, registration and proof of insurance. If the driver shows signs of intoxication, the officer will usually ask him to get out of his car and perform several physical tasks that test his mobility and reactions.

These tasks are known as field sobriety tests or FSTs. If you’ve ever seen someone walking down a painted white line on the side of a road while a police officer looked on, you’ve witnessed an FST in action.

Where and when FSTs are given

Police officers administer FSTs to drivers they’ve pulled over who are suspected of intoxication. However, you don’t have to be driving suspiciously to be given an FST. Police departments are now setting up checkpoints along busy roads, especially on weekday nights and weekends, to catch drunk drivers. If you’re halted at one of these “sobriety stops”, you’ll be asked a few basic questions and checked for signs of intoxication before being allowed to proceed. Drivers suspected of drunkenness at these checkpoints are asked to perform FSTs and take breath or blood alcohol tests.

Types of FSTs

Police officers typically use three FSTs to determine whether a driver is intoxicated.

  • The one-leg stand test: The driver is asked to stand and lift one foot six inches above the ground while keeping his arms down and maintaining his balance.
  • The walk-and-turn test: The driver is asked to walk down a perfectly straight line, usually a painted line on the side of the road, without stumbling or straying.
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test: The officer holds a penlight to the driver’s face and asks him to follow the light with his eyes.

All of these tests are tailored to determine whether a driver is intoxicated. A driver with a blood alcohol content level above .10% will typically fail one or more of these tests.

How to challenge the results of an FST

If you’ve been pulled over for a suspected DUI and you’ve taken and failed a field sobriety test, don’t panic. FSTs have several shortcomings that can be used by a DUI attorney to cast the tests’ results into doubt.

The most serious problem with the FST is its subjective nature. If you’re in poor physical condition or have bad eyesight, you may fail an FST as a result of your handicap. Even if you’re perfectly healthy, however, your FST’s results could be incorrectly interpreted by the police officer administering the test.

Roadside conditions can also affect the reliability of FSTs. If the weather was bad at the time of testing or your officer pulled you over in a high-traffic area, your lawyer may have grounds to dispute the FST’s results.

Understanding FSTs is a vitally important part of dealing with a DUI charge. If you’ve failed a field sobriety test and been charged with a DUI, keep in mind that you can fight the charge by finding an experienced DUI lawyer who knows how to dispute an FST.

This article was written by the legal professionals at the Law Office of James Alston. James is considered one of the top criminal defense lawyers in Houston by many. He takes time to analyze all aspects of the case in order to provide the best criminal defense.

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About the Author

Mr. Sloan has spent the last 14+ years focusing his attention on DUI representation. He has done more than 100 felony trials and has earned numerous favorable results for his clients, including Not Guilty verdicts, dismissal of cases, and beneficial plea agreements.