Those pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving in the state of Georgia, are likely to be asked to perform several field sobriety tests, as well as to blow into a portable breathalyzer. The two are very separate issues. Refusing a BAC test could lead to a driver’s license suspension, possibly as long as year. Refusing to perform field sobriety tests brings no driver’s license penalties. Unfortunately, many confuse the right to refuse field sobriety tests with Georgia’s implied consent law and the right to refuse BAC tests.
It is highly unlikely the Georgia police officer who pulls a driver over on suspicion of drunk driving will admit the tests are voluntary, or that the entire goal of the tests is to give the officer probable cause to make an arrest. Despite the fact Georgia law enforcement officers are required to take an NHTSA 24 hour training course on field sobriety testing, there are inherent problems associated with these tests. The three field sobriety tests which are considered “standard” are the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the one-leg stand test and the walk and turn test. Many officers include additional field sobriety tests such as some form of alphabet test and other agility exercises.
During the one leg stand and the walk and turn test, the suspect is given detailed instructions, then must carry those instructions out. As an example, during the one leg stand the suspect must raise one leg a few inches off the ground, pointing the toes out, with the leg level. Looking at their raised leg, they must count from one to thirty seconds. Swaying during the test, using the arms for balance, hopping around to balance or putting the outstretched foot down, results in failure of the test. Anyone who doubts the complexity of this test should try it at home while totally sober. There a number of factors which can negatively impact not only the basic three field sobriety tests, but others at well. These factors may result in a person who truly was not too impaired to drive, being arrested for DUI and include the following:
- The age of the driver;
- The weight of the driver;
- Any pre-existing physical injuries;
- Certain illnesses;
- Taking certain prescription drugs;
- An inner ear disturbance;
- The level of physical activity;
- Impractical shoes such as high heels;
- Poor weather conditions;
- Poor road conditions;
- A disability, or
- A head injury.
NHSTA Admits Field Sobriety Tests Are Not Always Accurate
The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration considers field sobriety tests to be only 65-77 percent accurate when properly administered, according to the guidelines. This results in a wide margin of error when field sobriety tests are used to determine impairment. There is also considerable evidence field sobriety tests are particularly unfair to women. A woman wearing a skirt and heels, who is stopped at night by a male officer, is likely to be extremely nervous, even fearful, for her safety. She may then be asked to perform the field sobriety tests on the side of the road, potentially on a rocky or uneven surface, placing her at a distinct disadvantage.
Problems with Breathalyzer Tests
While those who refuse a breathalyzer test in Georgia may end up with a suspended driver’s license, there are many issues with the machines, and the administration of the tests, which can result in incorrect readings. Breath machines measure the concentration of alcohol on a person’s breath using the reading with a pre-set formula to estimate the level of alcohol in the blood. Incorrect readings can occur due to: individual differences in body composition and size, hyperventilation, differences in deep and shallow breathing, the temperature of the breath, certain illnesses, the presence of non-alcoholic chemicals often used by carpenters and plumbers, or the nearness of the breathalyzer machine to other radio-wave emitting equipment.
Why You Need Experienced Legal Representation Following a Georgia DUI Arrest
There is virtually no good reason to agree to field sobriety tests, which are most often used by police officers to strengthen their case against you. Georgia DUI attorney, Melanie Ellwanger, is extremely experienced in defending those charged with drunk driving. Melanie has the skills and knowledge to effectively represent you throughout your case, and, when warranted, will challenge the results of field sobriety tests. Regarding BAC tests, Attorney Melanie Ellwanger will work hard to determine whether protocol was properly followed, whether the breathalyzer machine was correctly calibrated, or whether the machine was operated by someone who was not properly trained. There are a number of potential defenses which may be available in your DUI case. Never assume you will be found guilty of Georgia DUI charges; DUI attorney Melanie Ellwanger can protect your rights, as well as your future. Call 404-803-3105 for professional, experienced DUI representation.