What Happens During a Field Sobriety Test in South Carolina?
In 2009, South Carolina passed an amendment making it mandatory that any DUI-related field sobriety testing would have to be recorded. According to a WCNC report from November of last year, these videos have revealed mistakes made during the testing. When a law enforcement officer does not follow testing guidelines, it is possible to get a charge dismissed. Here are the procedures for what field sobriety tests should look like:
The Three Tests
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted research and came up with three tests that should be used during standard field sobriety testing:
- The walk-and-turn
- The one-leg stand
- The horizontal gaze nystagmus
Based on these tests, the NHTSA says, an officer should be able to come to a reasonable conclusion as to whether or not a driver is inebriated.
Allegedly, most unimpaired people should be able to complete the walk-and-turn, during which the driver must take nine steps along a straight line, walking heel-to-toe. At the end of nine steps, the driver must turn on one foot and walk the same way back to the starting position. Behaviors such as stopping to regain balance, starting before the officer stops giving instructions and using arms to keep balance are all considered signs of impairment.
The One-Leg Stand
During this test, the driver will be asked to raise one leg about 6 inches off the ground and count out loud using the “one-one thousand, two-one thousand” method. The officer will time the driver for 30 seconds, watching for hopping, putting the foot down, using arms to balance and swaying. The NHTSA notes that the majority people who exhibit at least two of these behaviors are intoxicated.
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
When someone gazes to the side, there is often an involuntary jerking of the eye that takes place. When a person is inebriated, that jerking is often exaggerated or occurs more easily. An officer will test for this by holding a small object, such as a flashlight or pen, in front of the subject’s face and moving it horizontally. If the driver cannot follow the object or has a pronounced jerking, officers are told that it is likely the person has an illegal blood alcohol concentration.
These are the procedures and how they should take place. If an officer fails to provide proper instructions or exaggerates the outcome of the testing, a video camera will capture it. Our attorneys at Nosal & Jeter, LLP have seen how these tests can be riddled with errors and bias. If you have been charged with DUI, it is a good idea to review the methods used during the field sobriety testing.