How Many NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Tests are There?
By: Board-Certified Attorney William C. Head, legal book author and expert on Georgia DUI laws
One of the three (3) standardized field sobriety tests are used as roadside evaluations for a DUI-alcohol suspect to be detained at a police encounter. The three standardized evaluations (the HGN test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test) were the product of two controlled studies, occurring in 1977 and 1981. The government wanted to have simple, quick, and safe “screening” tests to help officers make arrests at the highway before hauling a person in for a breathalyzer test at the station.
The original effort to identify usable roadside evaluations had more than ten prospective tests, but only three were chosen for law enforcement use. The ten initial police roadside tests the government considered had people recite the alphabet, walk a straight line, and pick up several coins (in a certain order) that an officer tossed on the ground, and tracing tests. The goal was to help make better arrest decisions for the offense of driving under the influence.
Dr. Marcelline Burns and her new company, the Southern California Research Institute, oversaw (and was paid large sums of federal money) these reports to give a “scientific” aura to these police tests. In fact, on multiple other “studies” and reports for police agility and psychomotor tests, Dr. Burns managed to “land” ALL the big federal contracts. Real medical doctors and scientists call the tests, “a fraud upon the motoring public.”The Three Approved NHSTA Field Tests: HGN, WAT, and OLS
In the final report, only three evaluations had anything close to being a better option than flipping a coin. The HGN, which is a MEDICAL test so complicated that registered nurses are not permitted to administer it, was the “most reliable” evaluation when conducted correctly. The other two evaluations are “divided attention” tests, meaning that you must listen to a list of instructions, remember them, and then execute the evaluation.
For the walk-and-turn test, a person is instructed by a policeman or policewoman to follow commands. These instructions include demonstrating the “steps” and telling the suspected impaired driver to get into an abnormal and awkward starting position and hold that unnatural stance for thirty seconds or more while instructions and a demonstration are performed by the cop. In general, the test subject is to walk heel-to-toe, with his or her arms clasped closely to their side, on a straight line (real or imaginary), and make a counterclockwise turn in small steps. Then, walking heel-to-toe again, coming back down the same line, with the heel touching the toe of the other foot.
This exercise has over 76 possible places that an error can be made, and two mistakes is “failing.” Many people make the two errors while trying to maintain the unnatural stance. Translated into typical school grade “scoring,” 97.3% and LOWER is failing.
The one-leg stand test calls for another “instructional” position, which entails putting your arms to your side, and your feet together. Once told to begin, the subject is NOT to raise his or her arms and raise either foot 6 inches off the ground while pointing the toe forward, with the sole of the shoe parallel to the ground. The subject must not raise either hand more than 6 inches from their side, look at the raised foot, and count out loud in this manner, “one thousand one, one thousand two…” and NOT bend either knee.
This exercise has over 122 possible places that an error can be made and (again) just two improper actions is the “failing” grade. Like the WAT test, a substantial number of people make one or two errors (e.g., starting too soon) while trying to maintain the unnatural stance. Translated into typical school grade “scoring,” 98.4% and LOWER is a failing grade.Counterfeit Tests are Being Used to Arrest Citizens for DUI-DWI
These bogus tests are a product of a paid study by the NHTSA. Of the 10 law officer tests in use in the early 1970s, only these three were put into a police training manual. No prior peer-reviewed studies were undertaken proving the reliability of ANY of the three tests. Because of the tests’ unreliability and many MORE logical and legitimate reasons, always DECLINE to take the voluntary and optional field tests.
Police across the USA need only to have a high school education, yet they have been taught (in field sobriety test training) about multiple gaze-evoked nystagmus “medical” problems. In reviewing the basis of a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, police officers were told about unrelated caloric testing of a person’s ear canal to mimic lateral gaze nystagmus (HGN) eye movements. In addition to “calorie nystagmus,” their manual also discusses the names of various other causes of lateral nystagmus, such as upbeat nystagmus and downbeat nystagmus.
The eye nystagmus test is a psychophysical exam that deals with irregularities of a person’s vestibular system. Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eye in a side-to-side manner (which doctors call saccadic movement) as the test subject’s two eyes move together with equal tracking while trying to focus on a moving object. Three separate “movements” of the stimulus are made, such as “lack of smooth pursuit” sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation and onset of HGN at or before 45 degrees.
The person being tested for HGN keeps his or her head still and tries “to use their eyes only” to follow the object (which police call “the stimulus”) as it is being passed from side-to-side (by the police officer). The officer then can see how your eyes “track” the moving object passing across your field of vision. Multiple “passes” are required, as the officer seeks to observe any “clues” or “cues” (obtained by the police officer’s separate observation of each eye).Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus HGN Test
All police officers who attend the NHTSA-based field sobriety test training are taught by their instructor that the horizontal gaze test is the most valuable and reliable of the three standardized field tests sanctioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Law enforcement is told that the HGN accurately predicts who should be arrested for driving while intoxicated, based on four or more clues or cues being observed, and that these clues mean that the person’s BAC is likely 0.08 grams percent or higher.How Many HGN Clues Indicate That a Person is “Over The Legal Limit?”
So, being scored at either four clues or six clues is an “arrest decision,” according to NHTSA SFST training. Police falsely testify that “observing four or more clues on HGN indicates IMPAIRMENT,” and this claim is a lie. Dr. Marcelline Burns, the person who CREATED the NHTSA field tests, has verified this fact at a legal seminar held in California.
Our three partners, Larry Kohn, Bubba Head, and ex-cop Cory Yager, are all published legal book authors or co-authors and regularly teach other DWI-DUI attorneys how to handle DUI defense cases in Georgia. No other Atlanta law firms near me or Georgia DUI firms have amassed as many legal industry recognitions with Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, Martindale-Hubbell, and Best Law firms in America. Bubba Head is one of only four Board-Certified DUI lawyers out of all 38,000 attorneys in Georgia.
Additionally, each of the law partners are Instructors in the standardized SFSTs, and Mr. Yager has been trained as a police Field Training Officer. Plus, he graduated from the National Forensic Science Center in Hoover, Alabama, where the FBI and federal agents undergo training. How many Georgia DUI lawyers are former law enforcement officers, who have made drunk driving arrests? One of our DUI law firm partners, Cory Yager, made over one thousand DUI arrests as a law enforcement officer over his decade-long career. He is both an NHTSA SFST practitioner and an Instructor in the standardized field sobriety testing procedures.
For a DUI in Georgia, call us 24 HOURS A DAY for a FREE lawyer consultation and ask about our attorneys’ fee payment plans. (404) 567-5515.See Other Valuable Links Below:
- The so-called Romberg Alphabet Test used by police
- YouTube video showing HGN eye test
- Video showing vertical nystagmus (The VGN test)