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Field sobriety tests (FSTs) play a crucial role in DUI (Driving Under the
Influence) investigations in Georgia. Law enforcement officers use these
tests to assess a driver’s physical and cognitive abilities to determine if
they may be impaired by alcohol or drugs. In this blog post, we’ll explore
what field sobriety tests are, how they are administered in Georgia, and
their significance in DUI cases.
What Are Field Sobriety Tests?
Field sobriety tests are a battery of standardized physical and cognitive
tests used by law enforcement officers to evaluate a person’s level of
impairment while driving. The purpose of these tests is to help officers
establish probable cause for a DUI arrest by assessing a driver’s balance,
coordination, and mental acuity.
Common Field Sobriety Tests
In Georgia, law enforcement typically administers three standardized field
1. **Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)**: This test involves observing the
driver’s eye movements as they follow a pen or flashlight with their eyes.
Nystagmus, the involuntary jerking of the eye, can be more pronounced when
a person is impaired by alcohol or drugs.
2. **Walk-and-Turn (WAT)**: The driver is instructed to take nine
heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn on one foot, and return in
the same manner. Officers look for specific indicators of impairment, such
as losing balance or stepping off the line.
3. **One-Leg Stand (OLS)**: In this test, the driver is asked to stand on
one leg while raising the other approximately six inches off the ground and
counting aloud. Officers watch for signs of instability, swaying, or the
need to put the foot down.
Administering Field Sobriety Tests in Georgia
It’s important to note that field sobriety tests should be administered in
a standardized and systematic manner to ensure their accuracy and fairness.
In Georgia, officers receive training on the proper administration of these
tests. Some key points about FSTs in Georgia include:
1. **Voluntary Participation**: Field sobriety tests are generally
voluntary, meaning you have the right to refuse them without immediate
legal consequences. However, refusal may lead to a license suspension under
Georgia’s implied consent law.
2. **Recording**: The administration of field sobriety tests is often
recorded on the officer’s dashboard camera or body-worn camera. This
footage can be valuable evidence in court.
3. **Influence of External Factors**: Many factors can influence a person’s
performance on FSTs, such as weather conditions, the road surface, fatigue,
and medical conditions.
Significance in DUI Cases
Field sobriety tests can be significant in DUI cases for several reasons:
1. **Establishing Probable Cause**: A successful performance on FSTs may
lead to a driver’s release, while indicators of impairment can provide
officers with probable cause to make an arrest.
2. **Evidence in Court**: The results of FSTs can be used as evidence in
DUI trials to support the prosecution’s case. However, they are not
infallible and can be challenged by an experienced defense attorney.
3. **Challenging FST Validity**: An attorney may challenge the validity of
FSTs by questioning the officer’s training, the conditions under which they
were administered, or the driver’s physical or medical limitations.
Field sobriety tests are a crucial component of DUI investigations in
Georgia. Understanding your rights regarding these tests and the potential
challenges that can arise from them is essential if you or someone you know
is facing DUI charges. If you have been arrested for DUI in Georgia,
consulting with an experienced DUI defense attorney can help protect your
rights and build a strong defense. Remember that FSTs are not definitive
proof of impairment, and a skilled attorney can work to challenge their
validity in court.
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship.
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