Sobriety Field Test - Fellner Law

The Difference Between a Field Sobriety Test & a Test at the Police Station

A police officer can pull over your vehicle and detain you for questioning if you are doing something illegal, dangerous, or if they have reasonable suspicion that you are committing a crime. If this happens and, upon questioning you, the officer has cause to believe you are operating your vehicle under the influence of alcohol, they may ask you to submit to a field sobriety test. While you have the right to say no to this request–and doing so may be in your best interests–it is important to know that even if you exercise your right to say no and you do not submit to a field sobriety test, you can still be arrested and charged with a driving under the influence offense. What’s more, if you are arrested, you will likely be asked to submit to testing at the police station. Consider the following about the differences between a field sobriety test and a test at the police station, what your rights are. If you are facing DUI charges you should call immediately so that our experienced DUI lawyer can help.

What Is a Field Sobriety Test?

There are three different field sobriety tests that are standardized per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While a police officer may ask you to do something that does not include one of the following standardized tests, it’s unlikely, as the validity of other tests are often challenged in court. The three standardized field sobriety tests are:

  • The walk and turn test – The subject is asked to take steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line, and turn on one foot and repeat the exercise after nine steps have been completed.
  • The one-leg stand test – The subject is asked to stand on one foot and count upwards for 30 seconds.
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test – This test involves the police officer asking the subject to track an object with their eyes. If the eye cannot move smoothly and there is distinct jerking, there is a greater chance that the subject is impaired.

Remember that while the results of a field sobriety tests can be used as justification for cause to arrest you, and can be used as evidence against you in court to gain a conviction, you can be arrested with or without the results of a field sobriety test.

Testing at the Police Station

If you are arrested and taken into police custody, you will be asked to submit to testing at the police station. There are three types of chemical tests that may be administered per the request of the Maryland state police: 1) breath alcohol testing, 2) blood alcohol testing, and 3) blood drug testing.

The breath alcohol test is the preferred method of testing in most cases. If the testing occurs at a police station, it will be administered by a breath alcohol technician or/and screening test technician, whose job it is to ensure that the test is administered properly, and that the machine is calibrated properly. These tests are different from preliminary breath tests, which are often administered on-site at the time you are being detained in your vehicle.

The other type of test that you may be asked to submit to, or that you can request in place of a breath test, is a blood test. Blood tests are very accurate, but are typically only used if a breathalyzer test is not possible (i.e. there is a lung issue that prevents a subject from blowing into the test) or there has been a crash resulting in significant injury or death. Only a licensed doctor or nurse can withdraw blood. While blood evidence is very accurate and hard to challenge, it is not impossible to have the evidence withheld from court. For example, if the blood is not properly stored, this can impair results – a fact that your attorney could present on your behalf if appropriate.

What Should I Do if Stopped for a DUI in Maryland?

If you are stopped for a DUI, it is important to know your rights, including your right to refuse to submit to field sobriety testing or/and chemical testing. At The Law Office of Jonathan R. Fellner, L.L.C., our Maryland DUI lawyer can help you to understand what happens next if you are arrested. To schedule a consultation with our law firm, please call us at 301-309-2000, send us a message using the intake form on our website, or stop by our Rockville office in person.

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