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Field Sobriety Tests
When police officers stop motor vehicles and have concerns that the operator may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs they may ask the operator to perform certain field sobriety tests. Police officers in Massachusetts regularly use four or five of these tests when trying to determine if the motor vehicle operator is impaired. These tests are commonly referred to as 1) the alphabet test, 2) the walk and turn test, 3) the one-legged stand test, 4) the gaze nystagmus test and 5) the finger to nose test. These tests must be properly administered for them to have any validity. Therefore, it is critical that your lawyer understand these tests and is familiar with the process by which they are supposed to be run.What Field Sobriety Tests are Approved in Massachusetts?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established guidelines for the administration of certain tests. It is interesting to note that the NHTSA has validated three of these tests only; the walk and turn test, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test and the one-legged stand test. Many times police fail to adhere to these guidelines. A good DUI lawyer should be able to exploit these shortcomings and discredit the officer's conclusions. Field sobriety tests are supposed to be reasonably simple. They are designed for the average person to perform when sober. Tests that sober people cannot perform have little or no evidentiary value. Any tests designed to "trick" the suspect are absurd and experienced drunk driving defense lawyers will quickly point this out to the jury. Many police officers in Massachusetts use field sobriety tests that are not approved. Your lawyer should know which tests are not approved. He should object to the officer testifying about these tests at trial and try to have them excluded.Massachusetts Case Law and Field Sobriety Tests
Massachusetts has some very important case decisions that pertain to field sobriety tests. In Commonwealth v. Sands, 424 Mass. 184 (1997) the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test cannot be admitted into evidence absent a showing of its reliability and that it was administered by someone qualified to do so. As a practical matter this decision eliminated this test as evidence in Massachusetts. In Commonwealth v. McGrail, 419 Mass. 774 (1995) the Court held that a person's refusal to perform field sobriety tests cannot be used against him as evidence. Thus, if you refuse to take these tests there can be no mention of them at trial.When Hiring a Massachusetts OUI Lawyer There is no Substitute for Experience
When hiring a lawyer for OUI cases in Massachusetts it is important that the lawyer you choose understands what is and what is not admissible at trial. Experienced DUI lawyers are familiar with the NHTSA standards and the applicable Massachusetts case law.
DUI or drunk driving in Massachusetts is referred to an OUI. If you have been charged with operating while impaired, call the law offices of Stephen Neyman at 617-263-6800 or contact us online. Our phones are answered 24 hours per day 7 days per week.
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