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Field Sobriety Tests in Ohio Traffic Stops for OVI / DUI Investigations

Ohio OVI attorney Brian Joslyn explains field sobriety tests conducted during traffic stops for OVI /DUI investigations. Joslyn Law Firm is experienced in defending people accused of OVI offenses in Ohio. If you have been accused of a crime or arrested in Ohio, please call (614) 444-1900 to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.

Once out of the car, they’re gonna have you perform, or request that you perform field sobriety tests. Understand, you are not obligated to take these field sobriety tests. You can respectfully refuse, and if it was my advice, and you ever had to go through this incident again, i would advise you to respectfully refuse any field sobriety testing. Because everything that an officer does from the moment they approach that window for that traffic stop, is designed to get more evidence to prove your impairment. And you don’t have to give them more information to help them prove their impairment. But if you did perform the field sobriety test, they likely pulled you in front of a cruiser. And while in front of the cruiser they’re gonna have you perform usually three field sobriety tests. Now, these tests, they have to be in adherence to NHTSA, that’s the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration guidelines for field sobriety testing. And it’s very important when we get the cruiser cam on these videos, that were watching that this test was conducted properly, the proper instruction was given. Because if you did take the test it’s our aim and goal to have this test thrown out of court. The test usually starts with the horizontal gaze nystagmus. What that test is, is an officer, asking you to follow the tip of their pen or their finger, as they follow your eyes they’ll see if you have what’s called smooth pursuit. And they’re looking to see whether the pupils of your eyes bounce as you follow their finger. And at some point, they will come to an edge of your vision and hold, usually for four one thousand. And they’re looking to see, whether your eye bounces in that time frame. The difficulty in challenging the eye test is that from the cruiser cam perspective that we view, we can’t see our client’s eyes. We see how the test is being conducted, and what we’re looking for in the video is whether it was done with the proper amount of space from the face and whether there was anything else going on in the background. Are there sirens, lights, oncoming traffic, lights from say like a parking lot or lamps or anything like that. Because that is really the only way you can invalidate those tests. The next portion of the test is usually the walk and turn. That’s where the officer will ask you to take nine paces down, nine paces back, heel to toe. Now in a police officer’s report, they’re often going to make it sound much worse on paper than what I often see on the video. And on paper, I’ll frequently see language that he swayed or was attempting to balance or using hands to balance, wasn’t necessarily heel to toe on the instruction and did an improper turn. And all of those things are true technicality wise as it relates to the NHTSA manual and what you’re supposed to be looking for. But what I’m really looking for is not those little tiny technicalities, but if I have to show this to a jury, are they gonna look at this video and say this person shouldn’t have been on the road. And a common mistake that I think that other attornies make that I do not, is we watch these videos, we don’t just rely on what this officer said in a report. Because if you read the reports, they always embellish the actual circumstances. They always make it sound worse than it actually was. Oftentimes when I get audio, they’ll say there was slurred speech, when I hear the audio, there’s no slurred speech. Oftentimes they’ll say they were swaying while walking, and I watch the video, I do not see swaying while walking. Oftentimes I’ll see, they weren’t heel to toe on the walk and turn, and they look absolutely like they’re heel to toe on the walk and turn. So I cannot ever rely upon the police report, I have to get the cruiser cam video. The next test after the walk and turn is the one-legged stand. The one-legged stand is where they’ll ask you to raise your foot off the ground, about 6 inches off the ground, and usually count to 30 one thousand. It’s during this test that I frequently see officers interrupt a client, or ask questions. And it can cause their attention to be diverted and sometimes they put their foot down. In addition to that, I think that the most common argument on this one-legged stand is, a lot of people couldn’t even stand on one leg, maybe they have a medical condition, maybe they’re overweight, maybe they’re just not that athletic to be able to just hold their foot out, on the spot, in front of an officer sometimes in freezing cold weather. so again, I use more of a reasonable person standard and I don’t always rely just on what i see on a report, which is just gonna say they put their foot down, they swayed for balancing, they put their arms out more than six inches for balancing. You can’t just rely on those reports, we need to sit down and view the evidence for what it is, not just what the officer’s perspective is.

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