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Alaska DUI stops and field sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Jul 17, 2018 | Uncategorized

When police officers in Alaska make a DUI stop, they may ask the driver to perform a field sobriety test. If the driver fails, they may then use these results as probable cause for a DUI arrest.

The first thing you need to know is that the law does not require you to take the test. This is different from the breath test after a DUI arrest, which the law does mandate and you may face significant penalties for refusal even if you do not get a DUI conviction.

Common types of tests

Generally, Alaska police officers use the standardized field sobriety tests that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed, along with the appropriate scoring methods. According to the NHTSA, changing part of the test can affect the accuracy of its results.

One test is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Typically, the officer will ask you to track an object with your eyes while he or she slowly moves it back and forth. An inability to track smoothly can indicate intoxication.

Another is the walk-and-turn. The officer tells you to take heel-to-toe steps in a straight line, turn, then walk back. Stopping at any point, moving your hands or staggering can all cause you to fail the test. Finally, the one-leg stand consists of you standing on one foot and counting until the officer tells you to lower your foot.

You can fail even if you did not drink

There are quite a few reasons why a perfectly sober person can fail any or all of these tests. The nervousness many people experience during a police stop can cause shakiness and trouble understanding instructions. If you are stopped on the shoulder of a noisy highway, you may not be even able to hear the instructions properly. Balance, a key indicator in these tests, can suffer due to nervousness, age, health conditions and type of footwear.

Police officers can make mistakes

In addition, police officers do not always follow the NHTSA manual’s instructions for administering the tests. They go faster, fail to give proper instructions or demonstrate incorrectly. Administering the test in a manner that undermines its validity can lead to a finding of lack of proper cause for an ensuing arrest.