DWI Test: Field Sobriety Test

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) are conducted to assess whether an individual was impaired while operating a vehicle. The results of the SFST would be the basis to prove probable cause for the arrest of a suspected DWI offender.

The SFST is the outcome of a NHTSA-funded research conducted by the Southern California Research Institute. New Hampshire DWI laws require law enforcement officers to complete a training program prior to the administration of the SFST. This training helps them detect symptoms of intoxication in suspects. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) grants the accreditation of the program and provides the administration of the training.

Three types of sobriety can be conducted in New Hampshire DWI cases: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), Walk-And-Turn (WAT) and One-Leg Stand (OLS) tests. All three tests follow a certain system; results will be evaluated based on the behavior as well as responses of the suspected DWI offender.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: the Most Accurate Sobriety Test

HGN is characterized by an involuntary sudden movement of the eyes, which usually happens when the eyes are focused to the side. In case of intoxication, this jerking eye movement could be more persistent. In administering the HGN test, the suspect will be asked to look at a moving object. A pen or small flashlight is often used for this purpose.

An enforcement officer will be looking for symptoms of alcohol impairment, such as failure to track a moving object and the abrupt jerking of the eyes at a lesser angle than usual. Approximately 88% of NH drunk-driving cases have been reported to be correctly classified through the administration of the HGN test.

Walk and Turn

Both the Walk-and-Turn and One-Leg Stand tests focus on an individual's ability to follow instructions correctly. Unimpaired individuals would ordinarily do such “divided attention” tasks without difficulty; therefore, the inability to complete the tasks could be a strong indication of impairment.

Usually, the suspect is asked to balance himself on one foot and turn around in one direction then in the other. Symptoms of impairment include the inability to keep balance or make the correct number of steps.

One Leg Stand Test

To pass this test, the suspected DWI offender should be able to lift one foot off the ground about six inches high while counting by thousands for at least 30 seconds. The suspect should avoid swaying and hopping while balancing on one foot. Putting down the lifted foot before being asked to do so could be considered as a sign of impairment.

Statistics show that in approximately 91% of cases, the combined results of all three tests have been accurate in detecting whether or not the suspect was impaired while driving.

Nevertheless, in many cases Attorney Russman can build a powerful defense featuring strategies for ensuring the best possible outcome.