Archive for February, 2011

Challenging Field Sobriety Testing in Wichita Kansas By Wichita DUI Defense Attorney

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

Almost every person who is arrested for DUI in Wichita is asked to perform a series of physical tests called field sobriety tests.  Most people are familiar with these tests because they have seen people asked to perform them on crime dramas.  These tests can look deceptively easy when one watches them performed on television, but like many things on television reality is often much more complicated.

Most people do not realize that only three of these field sobriety tests have been studied and approved by the United States Department of Transportation (“DOT”), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHSTA”) as having any scientific validity in determining whether a driver is intoxicated.  The NHTSA conducted a series of studies and concluded that the only scientifically valid standardized field sobriety tests included the following:

  • walk and turn
  • one leg stand
  • horizontal gaze nystagmus test

The NHSTA also concluded that these tests were not reliable unless they were uniformly administered and objectively evaluated.  Many people also are unaware that the NHTSA acknowledged that even when the three standardized field sobriety tests are uniformly administered and objectively evaluated there is a substantial margin of error.  A properly conducted and evaluated field sobriety test will still frequently result in a sober person being determined to be too intoxicated to drive.  The one leg stand and walk and turn tests result in a false positive result for intoxication a whopping 35% of the time.  The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test is not much better resulting in a false indication of impairment 23% of the time.

If you are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, it is important to obtain an experienced DUI defense lawyer who can effectively communicate to the jury that even when everything is done right field sobriety testing will lead to an officer arresting a sober driver 3 out of 10 times.  An experienced Wichita DUI defense attorney will also explain to the jury errors in an officer’s administration or scoring of the standardized field sobriety testing.  A knowledgeable Wichita DUI defense attorney will also carefully investigate to determine if the officer has received the proper training in how to properly conduct field sobriety testing.  A person’s mental health or physical limitations including obesity, lack of coordination, limited mobility and other physical disabilities can also affect Field sobriety testing results.

If the officer failed to properly explain or demonstrate the tests, the jury may disregard the field sobriety tests.  The jury may also conclude that the officer’s mind was already made up when he conducted the tests so that the result were not objective or reliable because the officer was more concerned with discovering incriminating evidence than determining whether the driver was actually intoxicated.  There are many grounds upon which a DUI defense attorney in Wichita, Kansas can challenge field sobriety testing which may lead to a reduction in the charges, a dismissal of charges or acquittal at trial.

Contact a skilled Wichita, Kansas, DUI lawyer at Cummings & Cummings to determine what legal options are available in your situation and to begin planning your most effective defense. Call 316-264-1548 for a Free initial consultation.

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The Wichita, Kansas, law firm of Cummings & Cummings, LLC provides experienced and aggressive legal representation in criminal defense and personal injury cases. We serve the south-central Kansas region including cities such as Augusta, El Dorado, Derby, Mulvane, Newton, Andover, Salina, Kansas City, Cheney, Kingman, Wellington, Winfield, and Eureka.