Field Sobriety Tests and DUI Arrests

Harrisburg DUI Defense Attorneys

Most people that have been arrested on a charge of drunk driving don’t stop to think about their field sobriety test and whether it should be challenged. Too often people arrested for DUI assume that a failed field sobriety test constitutes additional proof against them that they were driving drunk. What most people arrested for DUI don’t realize is a field sobriety test must be given according to a certain protocol. Some police departments require officers to be trained in how to properly conduct a field sobriety test; others, however, do not. Since field sobriety tests are used to establish probable cause to administer a breath test or make a DUI arrest, if conducted improperly the court may be compelled to dismiss the DUI charge against you.

Conducting a Field Sobriety Test – Issues to Consider

Most police departments use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Student Manual when training officers in how to conduct field sobriety tests. The manual is technical and thorough in places, specifying the conditions under which a field sobriety test must be given as well as what an officer is supposed to do if a suspect stops momentarily, shifts his or her weight, or raises his or her arms above a certain height. Field sobriety tests are supposed to be given on even, dry pavement. As such, whether or not your test was given on a slight incline, if it was raining or snowing at the time, or if there was broken pavement in the area may determine whether or not your field sobriety test can be used against you.

How Reliable are Field Sobriety Tests?

A common criticism of the field sobriety test is that it’s simply not reliable enough. First, the officer who administers it acts as your judge and jury: he’s the one that conducts the test AND the one who judges whether or not you passed it. As such, you’re at the mercy of the knowledge and skill of the officer who conducts the test.

Secondly, in a study conducted by S. Cole & R.H. Nowaczyk, officers were asked to watch a film of 21 people with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.00 perform the field sobriety test. Of the officers selected to participate in the study, 46% thought the people on film had had too much to drink. This raises serious questions about the reliability of the field sobriety test and the ability of officers to make a good determination of whether or not someone has failed it.

Arrested on a DUI Charge? Contact Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLC

If you’ve been arrested for DUI, contact Harrisburg DUI defense attorneys at Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLC today. We can evaluate your DUI case and determine if there is good reason to believe your field sobriety test was administered improperly.

The Importance Of An ALR Hearing

If you have been charged with drinking and driving in Pennsylvania, you will face an administrative proceeding regarding the suspension or revocation of your license, as well as a criminal hearing to determine guilt or innocence, and any penalties to be assessed. At the administrative proceeding, you may be assessed additional penalties if your blood alcohol level was greater than .08% or you refused to take a breathalyzer test. Your license could be suspended anywhere from 6 months to 18 months, depending on how many times you have been convicted.

At the ALR hearing, you will have the opportunity to show why your driving privileges should not be suspended. At this hearing, you can request a conditional occupational license, which will allow you to continue to operate a motor vehicle for limited purposes, including driving to and from work, to the doctor’s office or to other essential appointments. You can challenge efforts to have your driving privileges suspended, but you must request a proper hearing to do so. The request must be made within 10 days of your arrest on DUI charges.

When you challenge the revocation or suspension of your license at an ALR hearing, you can make many of the same arguments available in other criminal proceedings. You can challenge the traffic stop, alleging that police did not have probable cause to pull you over. You can question the legality of field sobriety or breath/blood alcohol tests. Successfully challenging the administrative revocation or suspension of your license can allow you to keep your job and maintain your lifestyle.

At Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP, every client receives a free initial consultation. Contact us by e-mail or call us at 717-233-5292 to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys. We speak Spanish and understand the impact a criminal charge can have on your efforts to become or remain a permanent citizen.

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