What Are the Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests Used in Oregon?

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Drivers who are stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence of intoxicants are usually asked to take field sobriety tests. Yet, there are many myths and misunderstandings surrounding these tests. Three field sobriety tests are standardized. That is, they should be administered in exactly the same way whether they are done in Oregon or another state. These tests are based on studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They are the One Leg Stand, Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, and the Walk and Turn. 

You’ve probably heard about these tests or even been asked to take them. However, there are also six non-standardized field sobriety tests that are approved by the authorities in Oregon. These haven’t been validated by the NHTSA and there is no single accepted method of administering them. However, they can be administered by law enforcement officers in the state.

The non-standardized field sobriety tests are:

  • Counting
  • Romberg Balance Test
  • Alphabet
  • Modified Finger to Nose Test
  • Finger Count
  • Internal Clock

A man taking a field sobriety test.

What You Need to Know About These Tests

The non-standardized tests are rarely used. Police officers may not be properly trained in administering them and the tests are not particularly reliable. Since they are not standardized, they can’t be used as actual evidence of impairment. One officer may ask drivers to count backwards from 100 to 50 while another may ask them to count forwards from 50 to 95. It’s arguable whether these would be considered the same test. Another consideration is that these tests were rejected from a group that included the three standardized tests. There’s no academically peer-reviewed literature to support their use in this way. 

Still, some officers may still ask you to take one of these tests. You have the right to refuse testing whether standardized or non-standardized. State laws make this clear, but officers usually don’t tell drivers. Between the words they use and their body language, they make motorists feel that they have no choice. They may ask in a hurried manner while indicating you need to step out of your vehicle. Many drivers later say they didn’t know they had the option of refusing to take the tests. That’s why it’s important to know your rights.

Portland DUI attorneys will usually recommend that you exercise your right to refuse testing.  Not only are the tests difficult to do but officers tend not to explain them properly. Even if you are completely sober, you’re likely to do the test incorrectly. When you fail, the officer will use it as an indicator of impairment. However, your performance could easily be explained by unclear instructions, a medical condition, your footwear, age, physical fitness and other factors.  

DUI Penalties in Oregon

The penalties for a DUI can be harsh, so you need to do everything legally possible to avoid conviction. Even a first-time offender could potentially spend up to a year in jail. Your driver’s license could be suspended for up to a year and you could be fined as much as $2,000. Even if you qualify for DUI diversion, there are additional costs you will have to pay.

If it’s your second DUI offense, that fine can go up to a maximum of $10,000 and you could still face up to a year of jail time. You may lose your license for three years. Subsequent convictions can result in even stiffer penalties. You shouldn’t take chances when you could be facing jail time, high fines and a suspended driver’s license. There’s also the social stigma to consider, and the possibility of losing any professional license you need to earn a living.

Contact Trilogy Law Group Today to Discuss Your DUII Case

DUII cases can be confusing. Everything from the initial traffic stop to your arrest can be of major importance. Knowing what’s legal and what’s not can help you protect your rights when you interact with the police. While your Portland DUI lawyer will defend you, they won’t be with you right from the start. If agreed to take a field sobriety test and you’re now facing charges of driving under the influence of intoxicants, you need to seek legal advice.  At the Trilogy Law Group, we’ll thoroughly investigate your case. We’ll determine whether they were any problems with the administration of the tests or the interpretation of the results. These will weaken the state’s case against you. Call us to today to schedule a consultation.

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