Field Sobriety Tests

Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm

Field Sobriety Tests

Arrested for DUI after failing a field sobriety test in South Carolina? Thompson & Hiller are experienced at dissecting the methods and accuracy of these tests to build a powerful defense for you. From questioning the administering officer’s training to the test conditions, we leave no stone unturned. Schedule a free consultation today to discuss the best defense strategy for your case.

Field Sobriety Tests

If you’ve been pulled over on suspicion of DUI in South Carolina, chances are you’ll be asked to perform one or more field sobriety tests. These tests are often the first line of evidence collected by law enforcement to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. Understanding what these tests are, their common examples, and what steps to take if you fail can be crucial for your defense. This comprehensive guide by Thompson & Hiller aims to equip you with the knowledge you need to navigate this complex situation.

What Are Field Sobriety Tests?

Field sobriety tests are a set of physical and cognitive exercises designed to evaluate your coordination, balance, and cognitive function. While they are not 100% accurate, South Carolina law enforcement agencies commonly use them to gauge impairment and build a case for DUI charges. The performance on these tests may lead to further testing, such as breath or blood tests, and possibly an arrest for DUI.

Common Examples of Field Sobriety Tests

Here are the most commonly administered field sobriety tests:

  1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): The officer will ask you to follow an object like a pen or flashlight with your eyes without moving your head. They look for involuntary jerking of the eyes, known as nystagmus.
  2. Walk-and-Turn Test: In this test, you’ll be asked to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn around, and walk back. The officer will observe for signs like stumbling, inability to follow directions, or lack of balance.
  3. One-Leg Stand: You will be asked to raise one leg about six inches off the ground and hold it while counting out loud. The officer is looking for swaying, using arms for balance, or putting the foot down.

What to Do If You’ve Failed a Field Sobriety Test

Failing a field sobriety test isn’t the end of the road; it’s just the beginning of building your defense. Here’s what to do:

  1. Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent: Don’t offer any explanations or excuses. Anything you say can be used against you.
  2. Contact Thompson & Hiller: Secure experienced legal representation immediately. We can help you challenge the test results and possibly other evidence in your case.
  3. Documentation: Make notes of any conditions that may have affected your performance, such as poor lighting, bad weather, or uneven road surfaces. This information can be useful in challenging the validity of the test.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test

If you’ve been pulled over for a suspected DUI in South Carolina, you may be familiar with the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, one of the standard field sobriety tests conducted by law enforcement officers. Understanding what the HGN test entails, when it is used, and what steps to take if you fail can have a significant impact on your case. Thompson & Hiller offer this guide to provide essential information and help you navigate the complexities of an HGN test.

What is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test?

The HGN test is designed to evaluate involuntary jerking of the eyes, or nystagmus, as you follow a moving object—typically a pen or flashlight—horizontally with your eyes. Law enforcement officers use this test to detect impairment due to alcohol or other substances. It is based on the premise that nystagmus becomes more pronounced when a person is impaired.

When is the HGN Test Used?

The HGN test is generally one of the first field sobriety tests administered during a DUI stop. The officer will usually conduct this test before moving on to others like the Walk-and-Turn or the One-Leg Stand tests. It’s essential to note that while the HGN test is often presented as scientific evidence of impairment, it is not entirely foolproof and can be influenced by various factors such as medical conditions, medications, and even fatigue.

What to Do if You’ve Failed the HGN Test in South Carolina

Failing the HGN test is a disconcerting experience, but it’s crucial to remember that it’s just one piece of evidence against you. If you find yourself in this situation:

  1. Remain Calm and Silent: Do not offer any explanations that could later be used against you. Exercise your right to remain silent.
  2. Contact Thompson & Hiller: Secure experienced legal counsel as soon as possible. We practice in challenging the validity of HGN and other field sobriety tests.
  3. Document the Circumstances: Keep track of any factors that may have affected the test results, such as lighting conditions, road conditions, or even if you have a medical condition that could affect the test outcome.

In Summary

The HGN test is a common but not infallible method used to gauge impairment. If you’ve failed an HGN test and are facing DUI charges, professional legal assistance can make a substantial difference in your case outcome. Contact Thompson & Hiller today for a free consultation, and let us help you challenge the evidence against you effectively.

Walk-and-Turn Test

Being pulled over for a DUI in South Carolina can be an intimidating experience, especially when asked to perform field sobriety tests like the Walk-and-Turn test. Understanding what this test involves, how it’s used, and what actions to take if you fail can make all the difference in your defense. This complete guide from Thompson & Hiller aims to arm you with the necessary knowledge to navigate this challenging circumstance.

What is the Walk-and-Turn Test?

The Walk-and-Turn test is one of the standard field sobriety tests commonly used by law enforcement to determine whether an individual is impaired due to alcohol or other substances. The test assesses your ability to follow directions and maintain balance, requiring you to walk heel-to-toe in a straight line for nine steps, turn, and return in the same manner. Officers look for signs of impairment such as stumbling, swaying, or not following directions properly.

When is the Walk-and-Turn Test Used?

The Walk-and-Turn test is often administered after a traffic stop where the officer suspects DUI. It usually follows other tests, such as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, to build a broader case for impairment. Although presented as evidence of intoxication, it’s crucial to remember that numerous factors, including medical conditions and even the type of footwear, can affect the test’s reliability.

What to Do if You’ve Failed the Walk-and-Turn Test in South Carolina

If you’ve failed the Walk-and-Turn test, it’s important to:

  1. Maintain Composure and Remain Silent: Do not give any statements that could be used against you later.
  2. Contact Thompson & Hiller: It’s essential to consult legal professionals experienced in challenging field sobriety tests. We can review the circumstances to identify any procedural errors or external influences that may invalidate the test.
  3. Document the Scenario: Take note of any conditions that could have influenced your test performance, like uneven pavement, poor lighting, or inclement weather. These observations can be critical for your defense.

The Walk-and-Turn test is subject to human error and interpretation. Thompson & Hiller has the know how to rigorously question the validity of this and other field sobriety tests. We examine whether the administering officer was adequately trained, whether the test was conducted under proper conditions, and if any external factors might have impacted the results.

In Summary

While failing the Walk-and-Turn test is concerning, it’s not a guarantee of a DUI conviction. With experienced legal representation, you can challenge the evidence and possibly have the charges reduced or even dismissed. Don’t navigate this daunting legal landscape alone; contact Thompson & Hiller today for a free consultation to discuss your best defense strategy.

One-Leg Stand Test

Being subjected to a field sobriety test like the One-Leg Stand test during a DUI stop in South Carolina can be stressful and confusing. Understanding what this test involves, how law enforcement uses it, and what steps to take if you fail it, can be crucial for your defense. This complete guide by Thompson & Hiller aims to provide you with the information you need to better understand this particular field sobriety test.

What is the One-Leg Stand Test?

The One-Leg Stand test is one of the three standard field sobriety tests commonly administered by law enforcement officers to assess impairment from alcohol or other substances. During this test, you will be asked to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and hold the position for about 30 seconds, all while counting aloud. The officer will look for signs of impairment, such as swaying, hopping, or using your arms for balance.

When is the One-Leg Stand Test Used?

The One-Leg Stand test is often administered after the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) and Walk-and-Turn tests during a DUI stop. It serves as an additional measure to gauge your physical and mental impairment. However, just like other field sobriety tests, the One-Leg Stand test is not foolproof. Several factors, including medical conditions, medication, and even stress, can influence the test’s outcome.

What to Do if You’ve Failed the One-Leg Stand Test in South Carolina

If you’ve failed this test, here’s what you should do:

  1. Stay Calm and Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent: Avoid making any comments that could incriminate you.
  2. Contact Thompson & Hiller: Acquiring professional legal advice from experienced attorneys in the field of DUI cases is crucial. We have the experience needed to challenge the validity of the One-Leg Stand and other field sobriety tests.
  3. Take Note of Conditions: If there were any external factors like rough terrain or strong winds, make sure to document these as they can be important in challenging the test results.

In Summary

Failing the One-Leg Stand test is worrisome, but it doesn’t automatically lead to a DUI conviction. With skilled legal help, it’s possible to challenge the evidence against you. Don’t go it alone; contact Thompson & Hiller today for a free consultation to discuss your options and best course of action.

Right to Refuse 

Navigating a DUI stop is a complex and often stressful situation, but knowing your rights can significantly affect the outcome. One of those rights is the ability to refuse field sobriety tests. This guide by Thompson & Hiller aims to shed light on the criteria for refusing these tests safely and legally in South Carolina.

What Are Field Sobriety Tests?

Field sobriety tests are physical and cognitive tasks, such as the Walk-and-Turn, One-Leg Stand, and Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus tests, that police officers use to determine if a driver is impaired. While these tests are standard procedures, they are not foolproof and can be affected by numerous factors including medical conditions, stress, and even weather.

Your Right to Refuse

In South Carolina, you have the legal right to refuse to take part in field sobriety tests. These tests are voluntary, and you are under no obligation to perform them. However, it’s crucial to understand that refusal could still lead to arrest if other evidence of impairment exists.

How to Refuse Safely and Legally

Refusing a field sobriety test can be done safely and respectfully:

  1. Be Polite: Maintain a respectful tone when speaking with law enforcement officers.
  2. State Your Choice Clearly: Explicitly say that you are choosing to decline the field sobriety tests.
  3. Ask for Legal Assistance: Once you’ve made your decision, immediately ask to consult with an attorney like Thompson & Hiller.

Consequences of Refusal

While you have the right to refuse the test, it’s essential to understand the implications:

  1. Arrest is Still Possible: You can still be arrested based on other evidence of impairment, such as erratic driving or visible intoxication.
  2. Impact on Your Case: Your refusal may be used against you in court, although its weight as evidence varies.
  3. Automatic License Suspension: Refusing a chemical test like breath or blood tests (which are distinct from field sobriety tests) could result in an automatic license suspension under South Carolina’s implied consent laws.

In Summary

Refusing a field sobriety test is within your legal rights, but it’s a decision that comes with its own set of challenges and consequences. Knowledge is power, so being aware of your rights and understanding the implications can make all the difference. If you find yourself in such a situation, don’t hesitate to contact Thompson & Hiller for a free consultation to discuss your best options and legal strategies.

Legality of Video Recording Field Sobriety Tests

In today’s digital age, video recordings can serve as crucial evidence in legal matters, including DUI cases. If you’re facing a DUI charge in South Carolina, understanding the legality of video recording during a field sobriety test is essential. Thompson & Hiller is here to guide you through the nuances and implications of video documentation in DUI cases within the state.

Is Video Recording Legal?

In South Carolina, video recording by law enforcement officers during a DUI arrest is mandated by law. This includes the process of conducting field sobriety tests. The purpose is to maintain transparency and ensure that all procedures are followed correctly. This video footage can later be used in court as evidence, either supporting or negating the DUI charges.

What About Personal Recording?

While it is not illegal for a private citizen to record public officials, including police officers, while they are performing their duties in public spaces, there may be limitations. Always inform the officer that you wish to record, and be sure not to interfere with the police activity. Refusing to comply with an officer’s instructions can lead to additional charges, such as resisting arrest.

Implications for Your DUI Case

Video evidence can play a significant role in the courtroom:

  1. Validation or Dispute of Officer Testimony: The video can be used to confirm or challenge the officer’s testimony regarding your performance on the field sobriety tests.
  2. Ensuring Proper Procedure: Legal counsel like Thompson & Hiller can scrutinize the video to ensure that tests were administered correctly and that your rights were not violated.
  3. Context Matters: The footage could show external factors, like uneven road surfaces or poor weather conditions, that could have affected your performance on the test.

Having an experienced legal team to review and interpret video footage can be invaluable. At Thompson & Hiller, we meticulously examine all video evidence to build a strong defense strategy tailored to your case. Whether it’s identifying procedural errors or challenging the conditions under which tests were administered, we strive to protect your rights at every step.

In Summary

Understanding the legality and implications of video recording during a field sobriety test can make a significant difference in your DUI case in South Carolina. If you’re facing a DUI charge, don’t take chances—contact Thompson & Hiller for a free consultation to explore your options and develop a robust defense strategy.

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