Challenging the Results of Field Sobriety Tests in a Wyoming DWUI Prosecution
July 15th, 2022
When you are facing charges for Driving While Under the Influence (DWUI), one of the key pieces of evidence the prosecutor will use to try to convict you is your performance on Field Sobriety Tests, or FSTs. While police officers and prosecutors want you to believe that these tests are infallible, they are rarely based in science, are subjective based on the police officer’s opinion of your performance, and are simply intended to provide the arresting officer with information he can use to describe your alleged state of intoxication.
Because FSTs are rife with potential problems, an experienced DWUI defense attorney can seek to have the officer’s testimony about your performance on these tests excluded from consideration at trial and, even if they are admitted, challenge the officer’s opinions about your performance during cross-examination.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
To collect evidence that will be used to try to establish that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Wyoming police officers will ask you to perform some combination of the following Field Sobriety Tests:
- The one-leg stand, which is intended to check balance and motor coordination.
- The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, which tests for exaggerated, involuntary, jerky movements of the eye that can be caused by consumption of alcohol
- The walk and turn (walking a straight line and turning without falling over or losing balance)
These tests are often performed on the side of the road, right after you have been pulled over.
Limitations of Field Sobriety Tests
While FSTs are performed with the intention of evaluating whether you are sober enough to operate a vehicle, they are not an accurate way to determine whether you are intoxicated. An experienced DWUI defense attorney can use these shortcomings to challenge the officer’s opinion about your sobriety based on your performance on the FSTs.
Any physical impairment can affect your performance on the FSTs. If you are overweight, suffer from a medical condition or an injury, have poor coordination, wear contacts, or are taking prescription medication, your performance on the FSTs could be affected. You might show signs of impairment, even if you are completely sober.
Field Sobriety Tests are commonly performed at the side of the road. Your performance could suffer if the road surface is not level, if road debris is present, or by the presence of oncoming traffic.
Your Mental State
Being pulled over is a stressful experience. During times of stress, the body responds by releasing adrenaline and other hormones that could impact your performance. In addition, if you have experienced mental or emotional trauma, your performance may suffer.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, all Field Sobriety Tests are supposed to be administered in the same way. But in practice, each officer will conduct the tests slightly differently. Police officers may never have been taught the correct way to administer the tests, or they may have forgotten certain elements of the test when conducting them.
Regardless of the cause, the result is that FSTs are not uniformly administered. Police officers may provide incomplete or incorrect instructions, make administrative errors, or incorrectly score your performance.
Challenging the Results of the Field Sobriety Tests
There are many problems with Field Sobriety Tests and how they are administered. An experienced DWUI defense attorney can exploit these issues and seek to have the results of the test excluded from trial, or address the problems with the tests during cross-examination of the police officer. Either way, the result is an increased likelihood of having the case dismissed, or the prosecutor agreeing to a significant reduction in the charges against you.
Just Criminal Law Protects Your One Shot at Justice
If you have been charged with a Wyoming DWUI, experienced legal representation is crucial. Led by our founding attorney, Christina L. Williams, our experienced team of DWUI defense professionals will thoroughly investigate the charges against you and fight to protect your rights.
Our attorneys began their careers in the prosecutor’s office, where they learned first-hand how the government prepares and prosecutes DWUI cases. Our criminal investigator spent over 20 years working for the Campbell County Sherriff’s Office before joining our team in 2016. And our paralegal and intake specialist are dedicated to helping guide our clients through the stress that comes with a DWUI charge. Together, we are all working hard to protect your one shot at justice.
If you have been charged with a DWUI, we invite you to learn why people choose us and our record of success. Then contact us today to schedule your personalized case review and strategy session.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.
Categories: DUI / DWUI / Drunk Driving