Law Office of P. Zachary Stewart
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Can police ask me to recite ABCs as DUI test?

Anyone in Pennsylvania or West Virginia who gets stopped by the police is at a disadvantage almost by default. That authorities decided to pull you over suggests something is at least wrong. At worst, it suggests you are suspected of having done something wrong. As we noted in one recent post, panic is an understandable reaction. That might even be what police hope for because it puts them in control.

The stop is only one step in a process, the purpose of which is to gather evidence that can later be used against you. In the context of a charge of driving under the influence allegation, consider field sobriety tests.

Officers employ field sobriety tests as a way to ostensibly judge if you are impaired. The testing may start with a simple question like, "Have you been drinking?" That might be followed by a request that you perform an array of physical or mental tasks.

Some tests are accepted as standard exams. Their results have often been accepted as evidence. But others are non-standardized, making them more suspect if officials try to use them in court. So which are which?

The standard tests are those the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has researched and found to be relatively reliable. That means more often than not. Of course, that means that there are times when the results deserve to be questioned. The standard ones include the:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: The officer looks to see how your eyes move while tracking from side to side.
  • Walk and turn test: Can you walk a line, turn and walk back without a stumble?
  • One leg stand test: This is another balance check.

And then there are non-standard tests. These might include:

  • Finger-to-nose test: This one is self-explanatory.
  • Romberg balance test: Feet together. Head tilted back. Eyes closed. Hold for what you think is 30 seconds. The officer is watching for swaying, tremors, how you follow instructions, what you say and your time-estimating ability.
  • Recite ABCs forward or backward or in a segment: Again, self-explanatory.

The problem with any of these tests is that anyone could fail them all, even when sober. That's why, when charged with DUI, speak with an attorney to protect your rights.

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Law Office of P. Zachary Stewart
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Weirton, WV 26062

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