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Standard Field Sobriety Tests in Kentucky

The standard field sobriety tests commonly conducted in Kentucky are walk and turn, one leg stand, horizontal gaze nystagmus test, and a portable breath analysis test. A walk and turn test consists of asking the driver to walk in a straight line, one foot in front of the other, and turn around on his/her toes and walk back. This test may be defended on the grounds that the driver does not have good balance, or when a woman, that she was wearing heels. In the on leg stand test the driver is asked to stand with his/her feet together and hands to his/her side. He/she is then asked to raise one leg six inches off the ground for thirty seconds. This is one of the most difficult field sobriety tests and therefore one of the easiest to defend. Even people with good balance may be unable to stand with one leg six inches off the ground for thirty seconds. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test tests the movement in the eye. Typically the eye moves rather smoothly when following something, such as a light or a finger. When someone is under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants the eye has more of a jerking motion.

The final test which is most commonly be used during a field sobriety test is a preliminary breath test. This test is done a breath analysis device which must be maintained and calibrated by the Department. When these devices are not properly stored, cleaned, calibrated and maintained they may give a false reading. False readings may also lead to acquittals in DUI cases. Further, a preliminary breath analysis may only be administered by an officer who is certified to operate the device. The Department, as well as the officer may be required to show proof that the officer is, in fact approved for operation of the machine. If such proof cannot be presented defendant may be able to successfully defend a DUI conviction.

At trial these sobriety tests are not admissible as evidence of the defendant’s guilt or innocence. The results may however be brought in at trial to prove that the officer had probable cause to make an arrest when the legality of the arrest is being question.


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