Understanding Field Sobriety Tests During Illinois DUI Stops
Before police even pull you over for a DUI stop, they will be watching your actions and the way you are driving to determine if a traffic stop is needed. The police officer will be looking for signs of alcohol impairment, such as failing to maintain proper lane position, speeding and braking problems, poor judgment and lack of vigilance. Once the officer believes they have enough evidence to initiate a traffic stop, they will pull you over and may ask you to step out of the vehicle. If the officer suspects that you might be under the influence of alcohol, they will ask you to complete a series of tests, which are called field sobriety tests. These can be standardized or non-standardized, although standardized field sobriety tests tend to hold up better in court because they have been extensively studied.Standardized Tests
Standardized field sobriety tests have been studied and determined to be fairly accurate in determining if someone is impaired by alcohol. An officer will ask you to perform these tests during almost every traffic stop for suspicion of DUI. There are three types of field sobriety tests that are considered to be standard:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN): During this test, the officer will be looking at the involuntary shaking of your eyeball as you gaze to the side, following the motion of the officer’s finger or pen. This is a phenomenon that occurs when people rotate their eyes at high peripheral angles but is exaggerated and occurs at lesser angles when a person is impaired by alcohol.
- Walk-and-turn: This test involves you walking along a line on the ground while maintaining your balance and focus. The officer will ask you to take nine heel-to-toe steps, turn on one foot and return in the same manner. The officer will be watching to see if you can follow directions and how intact your balance is.
- One-leg stand: During this test, you will be instructed to stand with one of your feet about six inches off of the ground, during which you will be asked to count out loud until the officer tells you that you can stop after about 30 seconds. The officer will be looking to see if you can balance without swaying, putting your foot down or using your arms to keep balanced.
The type of tests that officers use typically depends on the specific police department they work for and that department’s policies. Illinois police have been known to use other non-standardized tests during DUI traffic stops, which you may be able to challenge in court. These tests include:
- Alphabet Test: The officer will ask you to recite a portion of the alphabet. This test will start with a letter other than A and end with a letter other than Z.
- Count Down Test: Similar to the alphabet test, you will be asked to count backward from a certain number to another number. For example, the officer can ask you to count backward from 47 to 32.
You have the right to refuse a field sobriety test. If you do agree to the test, there may be reasons other than intoxication that you performed poorly. Illinois has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country, which is why it is important that you contact a skilled Tinley Park, IL, DUI defense attorney if you have been charged with driving under the influence. At the Law Office of John S. Fotopoulos, P.C., we will do whatever we can to get you the best outcome possible. Do not hesitate – call our office today at 708-942-8400 to schedule a free consultation.