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Standard Field Sobriety Tests in Kansas

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA)  has guidelines and procedures for how to conduct field sobriety tests.  In Kansas, once the law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe a driver may be impaired they can request a preliminary screening of the breath.  The person is considered to have consented to this test by driving in the state of Kansas and failure to test will come along with consequences.

Further, the law enforcement officer may request that the person agree to voluntary field sobriety tests such as the Walk and Turn, the One Leg Stand, and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN).  The Walk and Turn test requires the person to walk heel-to-toe for nine steps.  The purpose of the test is to see whether the person can listen to instructions and physically complete the test.  The One Leg Stand requires that the person is asked to raise one leg about six inches off the ground and count to thirty.  These two tests have more success of being upheld in court if used in unison.  However, one must consider whether a person could successfully complete these tests when sober also.  Under the Horizontal Gaze Test, the officer holds a penlight at a 45 degree angle towards the face and requests that the person follow the light with their gaze.  If the person is having difficulty following the light, or eye twitching, that is a sign that the person is impaired.

The results of these tests are admissible as evidence in a DUI hearing.  However, while the NHTSA has implementation guidelines for these tests, they possibly lack scientific accuracy and uniformity in being carried out. For this reason, a defendant could argue that the test was not properly administered as a defense to keep this evidence out. For example, the HGN test requires training and practice and the officer may not have that experience. Also, some of the tests require a physical capacity that the person may not have under normal circumstances (balance, capability of counting).  Any such factors should be considered if facing DUI charges that included these standard sobriety tests in the evidence supporting the charge.


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