Every law enforcement agency in Michigan that conducts Michigan OWI arrests adheres to standardized field sobriety tests as developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Even for a sober person, it is easy for the police to allege that you have failed their field sobriety tests. It is critical that you hire a Michigan OWI defense attorney who is very familiar with the intricacies of field sobriety tests.
The officer who arrests you has the right to ask you to perform a variety of field sobriety tests. These can include, but are not limited to, a walk-and-turn test, a one-legged stand, a recitation of numbers or the alphabet, and a horizontal gaze nystagmus test. The police administer these field sobriety tests to establish the necessary “probable cause” to place you under arrest. Many defendants feel the field sobriety tests are stacked against them from the beginning. For instance, an officer can ask you to hold your leg off the ground and count to 15. If you successfully hold your leg off the ground and count to 16 or 17, the officer will allege that you failed that test, even if it took physical skill to hold your leg above the ground.
The police officer is keenly observing you for signs of intoxication. He is looking to see if you are unsteady on your feet, if you are slurring your words, or if you are unable to follow simple instructions. If the officer deems you to be exhibiting any of these qualities, he can then allege that he possesses the probable cause to place you under arrest.
The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is a particularly tricky test. The officer is examining your eyes for neurologic signs of intoxication. During the test, the officer will ask you to hold your head perfectly still while he looks into your eyes. The officer is looking for what is referred to as “lack of smooth pursuit.” The eyes of an intoxicated individual can exhibit a jerking motion when following the movement of a pen or finger. If the officer notices these jerking eye motions, he can claim that he possesses the probable cause to place you under arrest for a Michigan OWI.
Notwithstanding the fact that defendants feel the field sobriety tests are stacked against them, a good Michigan OWI defense attorney can attack the credibility of these tests. There are voluminous instructional manuals that describe the exact methodology under which the field sobriety tests can be performed. Oftentimes, upon review of videotape or other evidence, an experienced Michigan OWI defense attorney can isolate moments where the arresting officer has performed field sobriety tests incorrectly. In some cases, this can lead to a dismissal of charges.
Attorney Richard I. Lippitt has the skill to attack the validity of field sobriety tests associated with your Michigan OWI arrest. Mr. Lippitt appears in Michigan courts over 350 times each year in defense of Michigan OWIs and stands ready to provide you with a free, no obligation meeting regarding your Michigan OWI. Please contact us via the form on this page or call (248)921-7164.