DUI Sobriety Tests: What You Need to Know

If you get pulled over for suspicion of DUI, law enforcement will likely administer a series of field sobriety tests to determine your level of impairment, if Standardized Field Sobriety Tests any.

The most common sobriety tests police officers administer are divided into three categories: physical coordination tasks, mental acuity assessments, and eye examinations.

Physical coordination tasks may include things like walking heel to toe in a straight line and standing on one leg for a certain period of time.

Mental acuity assessments often involve reciting the alphabet or counting backward from a certain number.

DWI Defense Strategies involving Field Sobriety Testing 

Finally, police officers may use an eye examination or “horizontal gaze nystagmus” test to determine if your eye movements indicate possible impairment.

If you are asked to complete standardized field sobriety tests, it is important to be cooperative and polite.  Having said that, you are legally permitted to decline roadside sobriety tests – Bill Powers, NC DUI Defense Attorney 

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test – HGN Test

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test is an eye examination that is used by law enforcement officers to detect signs of intoxication and/or appreciable Dexterity Tests impairment.

It involves the officer moving a stimulus (usually a pen or finger) from side to side in front of your face, while you follow it with your eyes. The officer will be looking for certain jerking eye movements.

Was the Traffic Stop Legal? 

If you exhibit “clues” on the HGN test, it could be a sign of impairment and used as evidence in your case.

It is important to understand, however, that certain medical conditions and even fatigue can also cause similar eye movement patterns.

There are six (6) recognized clues on the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, as “verified” by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The HGN is considered by law enforcement to be one of the more reliable standardized sobriety tests. If the test is not administered according to the NHTSA protocols, the results are compromised – Bill Powers, DWI Defense Attorney

Walk-and-Turn Test – WAT Walk and Turn Test

The Walk-and-Turn test requires walking a straight line, heel to toe, turning around on one foot, and then returning the same way using a specified number of steps (9). The officer checks your balance and coordination while administering the test.

The instructional phase of the sobriety test measures the ability to maintain balance when putting the right foot in front of the left foot and staying in that position until instructed to take the first step.

The Walk and Turn is also often referred to as the Heel to Toe test.

If you fail to follow instructions correctly during the Walk and Turn test, such as failing to touch heel to toe, step off a real or imaginary line, or miscount steps along the way, it could be used as evidence of impairment.

There are eight (8) recognized clues on the Walk and Turn test.

One-Leg Stand Test – OLS

The One-Leg Stand test requires you to stand on one foot with the other foot approximately six inches (6″) above the ground and counting out loud until instructed to stop (for approximately 30 seconds).

What happens if you refuse to blow? 

There are four (4) recognized clues on the One Leg Stand test.

The officer looks for several possible signs of impairment, such as swaying, hopping, using your arms for balance, putting your foot down, and not following instructions correctly.

If those “clues” are observed, they could be used to show impairment in a pretrial hearing challenging Probable Cause to Arrest, as well as in the case-in-chief during the Guilt-Innocent phase of a trial.


Do you need a lawyer for DWI charges in NC?

If you have been charged with driving while impaired in North Carolina, it is important to seek legal counsel right away.

We believe it’s imperative to immediately consult with an experienced DUI defense attorney if you’ve been arrested or charged with impaired driving – Bill Powers, NC DWI Defense Lawyer

DWIs can carry serious consequences, such as jail time (in certain circumstances), fines, and the loss of your driver’s license. An experienced attorney will be able to provide invaluable guidance and help protect your rights during this difficult time.

An attorney will also be able to evaluate the evidence against you and provide a legal opinion regarding the best manner in which to proceed.

Don’t go through this alone – contact a DWI lawyer in North Carolina. We’re here to help – Bill Powers, NC DUI Attorney

Can you get a license after DUI charges? DWI Limited Driving Privilege - Hardship License

The answer to this question depends on the specific circumstances of your case. In North Carolina, a conviction for driving while impaired often does result in the suspension or revocation of your license.

In general terms, a suspended license means that you are temporarily not allowed to drive and may be required to meet certain conditions before your license is reinstated.

A revoked license means you are no longer permitted to drive and must apply for a new license once the revocation period is over. The NC DWI laws are relatively complicated on this point and, frankly, not always entirely consistent in the use of the terms revoked and suspended.

How long is your license suspended for DUI? 

DUI lawyers tend to use the terms interchangeably.

While there are technical differences between being revoked or suspended, the substantive effect is that you may not drive and if caught, it is a very serious criminal charge in North Carolina – Bill Powers, DWI Defense Lawyer

If your license was suspended or revoked due to a DWI charge or a DWI conviction, it is important to seek legal counsel right away.

An experienced attorney will be able to provide guidance on the best manner in which to proceed and protect your rights during this difficult time.

How much does it cost to hire a DUI lawyer?

The cost of hiring a DUI lawyer varies greatly depending on the specific circumstances of your case.

At the Powers Law Firm PA, we charge a flat fee for DWI cases. We also accept payments when able.

As you might understand, more experienced lawyers often charge higher fees.

In addition to legal costs, DWIs can also carry serious consequences such as jail time, fines, and the loss of your driver’s license. Hiring an attorney with substantial experience handling DUI charges can help you ameliorate these consequences and protect your rights.

Is the Finger to Nose Test reliable? Finger to Nose Test

The Finger to Nose Test is not one of the three commonly administered National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – NHTSA standardized field sobriety tests, those being the HGN, WAT, and OLS.

Despite that, the NC Driving While Impaired Report – DWIR (North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Forensic Test for Alcohol Branch) references the test, and some law enforcement officers administer the Finger to Nose test.

DOWNLOAD A FREE COPY of the NC DWI Quick Reference Guide (page 14) to see an example of the Driving While Impaired Report (DWIR).

If administered, the Finger to Nose Test is just one element of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests – SFSTs occasionally used by police officers during DUI investigations. Ordinarily, it does not carry the same weight in court as the other NHTSA ‘verified’ SFSTs – Bill Powers, NC DWI Defense

The SFSTs are used to determine whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol and/or appreciably impaired by alcohol or drugs. However, these tests are not always reliable and may be open to challenge by a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney.

If you have been charged with drunk driving, it is important to speak with an experienced lawyer who can evaluate your case and ensure that your rights are protected during this process. An experienced

Can you go to jail for DWI in North Carolina?

Yes, you can go to jail for a DWI in North Carolina in certain circumstances.

Jail is very much in play if there is a Grossly Aggravating Factor related to the impaired driving charges – Bill Powers, DUI Defense Lawyer

That’s true for even if you have no prior criminal record or history of DUI charges in North Carolina.

DWI Sentencing Laws

North Carolina DWI Law Section 20-179 – Grossly Aggravating, Aggravating, and Mitigating Factors

DWI penalties in North Carolina can be very serious and can include license suspension or revocation, fines, probation, community service, and even jail time in certain circumstances.

The exact penalty imposed will depend upon the details of your case.

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