10 Oct No Comments Arnold & Kangas Criminal Defense Articles

Massachusetts Field Sobriety Tests are used by law enforcement officers to determine whether someone may be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

There are several tests that may be administered however three tests are commonly used:

1.    Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN). The officer will ask the suspect to follow an object with his eyes. As the object is moved further to the side of the person, a jerking of the eyes called HGN will occur. HGN is more prominent in impaired persons.
2.    The walk and turn requires the suspect to walk a number of steps instructed by the officer, touching their heel to toe with each step. Impaired persons may do the wrong number of steps or may not be able to touch heel to toe.
3.    The one leg stand. An impaired person may not be able to keep their hands at their sides and may wobble more.

The field sobriety tests may be modified in the case of an individual who may not be able to perform the tests for physical reasons. In this case, the walk and turn and the one leg stand may be replaced with other tests, such as listing a portion of the alphabet.

You may be wondering the purpose of field sobriety tests when breathalyzer tests are available and more accurate. There are a number of reasons officers administer field sobriety tests first, including:

  • Establishing evidence that probable cause exists for the Officer to arrest a person for OUI.
  • Additional evidence that the driver is under the influence to support the prosecution in court.
  • If a person is under the influence of a substance other than alcohol, this may indicate impairment.
  • In most states, including Massachusetts, a blood alcohol content of over .08 is automatically considered criminal, but the state can still charge a driver with a lower BAC who is impaired and field sobriety tests can help determine impairment.

Field sobriety tests should often be challenged; for example, many tests can often be difficult to complete even while sober. Additionally, an experienced OUI defense attorney can identify errors and inconsistencies in the proper administration of a field sobriety test.

Remember, dash cams and other recording devices are fairly common. If equipped, dash cams are activated automatically when the officer’s lights or sirens are turned on. If you are facing OUI charges in Massachusetts and were given a field sobriety test, it’s quite possible the event has been recorded. You have the right to see this video as it may help your case.

If you are involved in a Massachusetts OUI case, there can be serious legal and financial consequences even on a first offense. Retaining experienced and proven legal counsel can make the difference.