The Truth About Maryland DUI/DWI Field Sobriety Tests

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During the 1970's and 1980's the NHTSA, with the help of psychologists and doctors developed three standardized tests for trained police officers to use in the field to determine whether to arrest or release drivers suspected of drunk driving. Those three tests are the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), walk-and-turn, and one-leg stand. These tests are designed to be conducted in a standardized manner and interpreted using standardized clues. The horizontal gaze nystagmus has six clues and typically if a driver shows four or more of the six clues that is can be an indication that the driver has been drinking. The walk-and-turn test has eight clues and if a driver exhibits two or more of the eight clues that can be an indication that the driver is impaired. The one-leg stand has four clues and if a driver shows two our more clues that can be evidence that he or she is impaired. NHTSA, with the help of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), developed training programs and manuals for both instructors and students to learn how to properly administer standardized field sobriety tests. Police are taught to administer and interpret the tests in a standardized manner. Standardization of these tests is essential to their reliability, and the manual states that:

  • It is necessary to emphasize this validation applies only when:
  • The tests are administered in the prescribed manner
  • The standardized clues are used to assess the suspect's performance
  • The standardized criteria are employed to interpret that performance

If any one of the standardized field sobriety test elements is changed, the validity is compromised. Our job as Maryland DUI attorneys is to ensure that the police officer has been properly trained and administered the field sobriety tests correctly. The fundamentals of fairness an objectivity are essential when the Court decides a defendant's guilt or innocence. If you have been charged with a drinking and driving offense contact the Maryland DUI lawyers at Portner & Shure.

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