Field Sobriety Tests

In Michigan, if you are stopped and the officer smells the odor of alcohol, it is likely the Officer will ask you to take field sobriety tests or FST’s. Often the first test will consist of asking you to count backwards or recite the alphabet from “G” through “S” (if you continue on to T, you have a problem). Depending on how you perform, he may then ask you to step out of your vehicle and do the “Walk and Turn” or the “One Leg Stand”.
Often times the officer does not follow or even know the proper procedures when administering these tests. Currently, there are only 3 (three) tests sanctioned by the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NYTSA). These three tests are the 1) Walk and Turn, 2) One Leg Stand and 3) the Nystagmus eye test.

For instance, when administering the “Walk and Turn”, it is recommended that the officer use a line that is visible to the person taking the test. This may be a lane marking in a parking lot or a chalk line drawn by the officer. If there is no line available, NYTSA recommends that it be conducted parallel to a curb. NYTSA also recommends that the test be given on a flat, paved surface. I had a client who, when asked to perform the “Walk and Turn”, was told to do it on an unpaved parking lot, with no line drawn and with rocks and other irregularities on the surface. Obviously he flunked.
Bottom line, unless you are three sheets to the wind, be aware and remember the conditions under which the FST’s were administered. Be able to relate these conditions to your attorney. If the officer did not follow the proper procedures, this may be enough to get the charge dismissed, reduced, or at least, convince the prosecutor to negotiate a better deal.