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Field Sobriety Tests and Probable Cause
An inability to perform field (or roadside) sobriety tests almost always constitutes a probable cause of intoxication, even if the defendant informs the officer of a physical impairment that hinders the performance of the tests. Of special concern in field sobriety tests is the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, wherein the tendency of a person’s eyes to oscillate (or jerk) as they gaze to the side is observed by the officer. As a person becomes intoxicated, nystagmus (the rapid involuntary oscillation of the eyeballs) occurs after only a few degrees of lateral movement, and the oscillations at extreme angles become more noticeable. Some courts have upheld the validity of an HGN test and have permitted police officers to rely on the performance of such a test in establishing probable cause. Other courts have refused to permit officers to rely on this test in the absence of expert interpretation or expert testimony as to the validity of the test. It should be understood that the performance of field sobriety tests is not always necessary to establish probable cause of intoxication. An officer’s observation that the defendant smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot eyes, and had difficulty speaking clearly and standing may, by itself, constitute sufficient probable cause of intoxication. An officer’s observation that the defendant’s breath smelled of alcohol and that his or her eyes were watery and bloodshot may also constitute sufficient probable cause of intoxication. An officer’s observation of erratic or unlawful driving coupled with the smell of alcohol or bloodshot eyes may also constitute sufficient probable cause of intoxication to justify an arrest. If you have been arrested for drunk or impaired driving, don’t wait to learn how to protect your legal rights. An experienced and specialized DUI-DWI attorney will know how to challenge the legality of the stop and the law enforcement’s articulable suspicion. TeamDUI.com lawyers can help determine if this is just one of many aspects that could be challenged in a DUI-DWI case. Call 1-844-TEAM-DUI (1-844-832-6384) day or night to speak to a specialized DUI defense lawyer or have an attorney call you near me by submitting information about your case.