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What Happens During Maryland Field Sobriety Tests For DUIs and DWIs?

On Behalf of | Oct 17, 2017 | dui/dwi |

A Maryland police officer typically performs a three-part, physical field sobriety test after a traffic stop where there is suspicion that the motorist may be drunk or otherwise impaired.

Three Types of Sobriety Tests

The three physical tests are typically used to determine if a Maryland vehicle operator is driving while impaired. The tests are the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn and the one-leg stand test.

Police officers know they have to follow specific guidelines in performing the tests. A Maryland DUI or Maryland DWI attorney can advise you on whether the tests can be successfully challenged.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

The first test that is typically administered is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. During this test, the officer looks for involuntary jerking of the driver’s eyes as the driver looks toward the side. The officer will ask the driver to place his feet together and keep his hands at his side. The office will use his finger or an object such as a pencil or ink pen and ask the driver to follow the movement of the object without moving his head.

But, the test must be done a certain way. For example, the proper way to do the test takes 14 passes of the object, four phases and the test must take at least 82 seconds. Other common mistakes include moving the object too quickly and holding the object closer than 12 inches. If the officer makes any of these mistakes, the test results are not reliable.

Walk and Turn Test

The second test that is usually required is the “Walk and Turn Test.” This test measures the driver’s ability to maintain his balance, to walk in a straight line and follow directions. To perform the test, the driver is asked to make nine heel-to-toe steps in a straight line while keeping their arms to the side and counting each step. The officer will observe whether the driver is maintaining his balance and properly following the instructions.

One Leg Stand

The other Maryland sobriety test often used is the “One Leg Stand.” In this test, the driver is asked to stand on one leg for 30 seconds. It measures balance and coordination and divides the driver’s attention. The officer will observe whether the driver sways while performing the test, uses his arms for balance, hops or puts his foot down.

Additional Tests

Maryland sobriety tests also include non-physical tests — two “breath” tests. These tests will be discussed in detail in a future blog.

When a driver attempts these DUI and DWI physical field sobriety tests, police officers are instructed to take a lot of notes on things that are done wrong in order to use the information to convict the driver of a Maryland DWI or DUI charge.

An experienced attorney can help if you are facing a DWI or DUI charge in Ocean City, Baltimore, or other areas in Maryland. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience fighting Maryland drunk driving charges. You can contact Thomas Maronick at 410-881-4022 or via our website for a free consultation.



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