What Is The Importance Of Roadside Tests Such As Portable Breath Tests And Field Sobriety Tests In A DUI Case?
Roadside portable breath testing machines are devices that are about the size of a cell phone. They are so unreliable that the court systems have deemed the number result that they produce as unusable in court. All police can use them for is to determine whether there was alcohol in your system or not. It does not matter what number shows up on the portable breath test machine. What matters is that they showed there was alcohol in your system. That’s what can be used against you in court.
There are three field sobriety tests that Georgia recognizes as reliable and usable in court. First is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. That is the eye test where they have you keep your head still and watch your eyes while you move your eyes back and forth following a pen, finger, or light. It’s very important to understand that this, like all the other standardized field sobriety tests, is designed to make you fail. What they’re looking for is jittery movement of your eyes back and forth at certain different angles. Each time that your eyes start the jittering movement, they count that as a clue. Once you reach a certain number of clues, there is a statistical probability of you being under the influence of alcohol above the legal limit.
There is a second component to the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test and that’s the Vertical Gaze Nystagmus. What they’re looking for is when your eyes move up and down, parallel to your face, that the same sort of jittery movements happen at certain angles. What this is supposed to indicate is that whatever is in your system is a large dose for your particular body.
Second is the one leg stand test. The officer will have you choose one leg to stand on, hold the other leg out in front of you with your eyes closed, six inches off the ground, and start counting by one thousands. They are looking for clues again, like that you’re not able to keep upright, that you’re moving your foot around too much, that you’re setting your foot down, or that you’re swaying back and forth or using your arms to balance. Each time you do that, it counts as a clue. Once you get to a certain number of clues, it would show that there’s a statistical probability that you’re over the legal limit of alcohol.
The third and final standardized field sobriety test is the walk and turn test. The officer will ask you to get into a position where you have one foot touching the heel of the foot in front of it. As soon as you get into that position the very first time, the test starts. Naturally, most people, once they get into that position, are going to step back out into a more comfortable position to listen to the remainder of the instruction. Doing so counts as a clue.
They want you to stand there in an uncomfortable position and listen to their instructions and then take nine steps, heel to toe, down on an imaginary line. Once you finish the nine steps, turn around taking a series of small steps and take nine steps back toward the original starting point. They are looking for clues. Each time you step out of the position during the instructions, that you don’t go along the imaginary straight line, that your toe does not touch your heel, that you mess up during the turn, fall over, or take the wrong number of steps, it counts as a clue. In addition, your hands are supposed to be beside your hips. If they come up from your body more than six inches, they also count that as a clue. Once again, if they reach a certain number of clues, it will be statistically likely that you are over the legal limit.
There are some other field sobriety tests that police officers like to use, which aren’t statistically or scientifically sound. A lot of times, they’ll ask you to say your ABCs from D to M, say your ABCs backwards, or count to 30 while they look at their watch to see if you can estimate time correctly. These just aren’t as reliable. Performing the standardized field sobriety tests is not required and it’s probably best to not do them. If you don’t give them any additional evidence, they can’t use it against you.