Driving while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol happens every day in upstate South Carolina. DUI is a serious offense and attracts severe consequences. However, DUI defense lawyers in Greenville, SC, can help you get off the charge or receive a reduced sentence.
Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are used to enforce DUI laws in South Carolina. The police perform these tests when they suspect you are driving while drunk. It allows the officer to observe your physical ability, balance, and attention level. In addition, it establishes a probable cause for the arrest.
If you fail a field sobriety test, you will be convicted of DUI. Penalties range from jail time, hefty fines, and ignition interlock installations. This article discusses the field sobriety tests used in Greenville, SC, and how they work.
Field Sobriety Tests in Greenville, South Carolina
Driving while impaired rubs you off your ability to make sound judgments on the road. It puts you at risk of harming yourself and everyone you share the road with. DUI is a primary contributory factor for collisions resulting in fatalities and death.
Field sobriety tests were determined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The tests discern if your blood alcohol level (BAC) is above 0.08%. S.C Code of Laws Section 56-5-2933 prohibits driving a motor vehicle with a BAC level of 0.08% or more.
An inaccurate field test can lead to a false DUI arrest and unfair civil damages. The tests are usually subjective and based on the judgment of the police officer who stops you. More often than not, the police already form a judgment about you which can influence their observation.
Improperly administered field tests are not valid evidence of intoxication. You can avoid a DUI charge by successfully challenging the administration or result of the FST.
Types of Field Sobriety Tests Mostly Used in Greenville, SC
There are three standardized field sobriety tests endorsed by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). They include:
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
Nystagmus is a medical term for involuntary jerking of the eyes. HGN is a sobriety test administered by the police to establish probable cause for DUI arrest. It involves checking your eyes for involuntary jerking as you gaze from side to side. The observation of the eyes for HGN is the first field sobriety test.
The police usually administer the HGN test in a bright place or with a flashlight. During this examination, the officer will hold a stimulus: a pen, flashlight, or the officer’s finger. You will be instructed to follow the stimulus with your eyes. The stimulus used will be held slightly above eye level, so you look directly at it.
While HGN is useful to determine intoxication, it can be inaccurate. Several medical conditions can cause nystagmus, which the officer cannot diagnose. While administering the HGN test, the officer will ask you to:
- Remove your glasses (if worn)
- Put your feet together, hands on your side. Keep your head still and look at and follow the stimulus with your eyes.
- Keep looking at the stimulus until told the test is over
- Not to move your head
- Whether you understand the directions
There are clues of intoxication the police check for, such as:
- Lack of smooth pursuit in the left and right eyes
- Distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation in the left and right eyes
- The onset of nystagmus before 45 degrees
- Vertical gaze nystagmus
The maximum number of clues possible for each eye is three. The total maximum number of indications possible for both eyes is six. If the police observe four or more clues, your BAC may be at or above 0.08%.
Walk and Turn Test (WAT)
The walk-and-turn test is a divided attention test between physical and mental tasks. It assists the police in seeing visible signs of impairment. You will take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight imaginary line, turn 180 degrees and walk back to the start point.
Your arms must be at your side, and you count each step aloud. You must conclude the test without stumbling or leaving the line, and it is carried out on a dry, hard, and non-slippery surface.
The test is designed to measure your ability to follow directions and maintain balance. However, several factors such as environment, footwear, injury, or ailment can affect the outcome. The test instruction is as follows:
- Put your left foot on the line
- Then place your right foot on the line ahead of your left, with the heel of your right foot against the toe of your left foot
- Do not start to walk until you’re told to do so
- When told to begin, take nine heel-to-toe steps on the line and take nine heel-to-toe steps back down the line
- When you turn on the ninth step, keep your front foot on the line and turn, taking several small steps with the other foot. Then, take nine heel-to-toe steps back down the line.
- Ensure you look at your feet, count each step out loud, keep your arms at your side, ensure you touch heel-to-toe, and do not stop until you have completed the test.
The police use WAT to check for the following clues:
- Inability to maintain balance during instructions
- Starting too soon
- Inability to walk heel-to-toe
- Improper turn
- Stopping while walking
- Incorrect number of steps
- Using arms for balance
- Stepping off the line, etc.
If you exhibit two or more clues or fail to complete the test, your BAC will be classified as 0.08% or above.
One Leg Stand (OLS)
OLS is a divided attention test. First, you will stand on one leg for 30 seconds. Then you’ll raise one of your legs six feet above the ground. Your eyes remain fixed on your raised feet, and your arms are kept at their side.
The police use this test to measure balance and coordination. However, ill, injured, overweight, or older adults should not take the test. The instructions are:
- Stand with your feet together and your arms at your side.
- Maintain position until told otherwise.
- When told to, raise one leg, either one, approximately 6 inches off the ground, foot pointed out, both legs straight, and look at the high foot.
- Count out loud in the following manner: 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, and so on until told to stop.
There are four clues the police watch for:
- Swaying while balancing
- Using arms for balance
- Putting the foot down
Contact Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in Greenville, SC
If you are charged with DUI, protect your rights by speaking with a criminal defense lawyer in Greenville, South Carolina. At The Bateman Law Firm, we are vastly experienced with every step of the DUI process. So whether you need legal advice or legal representation after an arrest, we can help you. Reach out to our firm today for a free consultation.