It is very important that you work with a Napa County DUI lawyer if you have been charged with driving under the influence. A DUI conviction can do significant harm to your ability to find work, and it can cost you a great deal of money in fines as well as cause you to have your driving privileges suspended. One area where your attorney may be able to attack the prosecution is if you were administered a field sobriety test incorrectly.
Field Sobriety Tests
When a law enforcement officer pulls over a driver who is suspected to be under the influence, one or more field sobriety tests are generally given. It is standard procedure, so you can expect to be administered any of the following:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus
- Walk and turn
- One-leg stand
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has standardized the way these tests are to be administered, and so any deviation from the appropriate steps involved in a given test can be used by your DUI attorney Walnut Creek to argue that the results should be thrown out. Imagine if in a major league baseball game the umpire imposed a rule that the batters on one team have to raise one leg while swinging at the ball. The result would almost certainly be that the opposing team would win by undue advantage. Requiring a driver who is alleged to be intoxicated to take a field sobriety test in a manner that differs from the standards of the NHTSA may give the officer a result every bit as false and unfair.
How the One-Leg Test Is to Be Correctly Administered
According to the NHTSA, the procedure that the officer is supposed to follow is:
The suspect is asked to stand on one leg.
The officer instructs the driver to extend the other leg frontward in a stiff-leg manner.
The foot of the raised leg is to be held about six inches above the ground in a parallel fashion.
The driver is then instructed to stare at the foot that is elevated and count aloud by thousands until told to stop (one thousand and one, one thousand and two, etc.). The driver is warned not to begin until told to do so, after which the officer asks if all of this is understood.
The test needs to last for thirty seconds, and the officer keeps track of the time. Sometimes a driver counts too slowly or too fast, and the officer needs to know this and make corrections along the way. The NHTSA indicates that the officer is supposed to watch for clues that the suspect is impaired during the test. These include: swaying side to side, using arms to balance, hopping, and putting a foot down. If the driver/suspect fails at two of these, there is a strong likelihood of intoxication. Your Napa County DUI lawyer knows, however, that this depends on whether the test was administered as per the correct protocol.
Defense Arguments Against the One-Leg Stand
Your DUI attorney Walnut Creek is going to look for steps in the test that were either skipped or improperly given in order to raise reasonable doubt about the validity of the results. Many officers are not correctly trained in this procedure, forget their training, or perhaps even administer the test incorrectly on purpose. There are also reasons why a suspect may not be able to accomplish the physical requirements of the test that have nothing to do with intoxication. As your Napa County DUI lawyer knows, for instance, certain medical conditions make it impossible for a person to hold the required stance. Anyone who has had sciatica, a knee injury, or hip problem can attest to this. Moreover, the surface of the area where the test was administered may be uneven and cause the suspect to fail the test. Many such tests are given on the shoulder of the road, and these generally are graded and often are strewn with debris, rocks, and dirt. When wet, the shoulder can be slippery as well.
Work with a Napa County DUI Lawyer If You Are Facing Charges
If you have been charged with driving under the influence, work with a Napa County DUI lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to provide quality legal representation. Call The Law Office of Blackie Burak today at (925) 933-4500 to arrange an initial consultation.