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Field Sobriety Tests for DUI in Oregon

A sworn officer in Oregon may use certain field sobriety tests after stopping a person that the officer reasonably suspects of driving under the influence of intoxicants. These field sobriety tests include horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn test, one leg stand, finger count, alphabet, counting, internal clock, Romberg balance test, and modified finger to nose test. Also, officers who have completed certain training may perform tests such as pupil size estimation, pulse rate examination, and examinations of a person’s vital signs.

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test is conducted when an officer asks a person to track an object with the person’s eyes. Nystagmus is involuntary eye movement that can result from substance abuse or being under the influence of an intoxicant. The officer checks for whether the person can smoothly follow the object with his eyes. The officer may use the walk and turn test by directing a person to walk in a straight line and asking the person to turn in a certain direction. Officers may also test a person by asking the person to count, recite the alphabet, touch a finger to their nose, or to use their internal clock to tell the officer when 30 seconds has elapsed. The Romberg Balance Test is conducted when a person is instructed to stand with feet together and arms at the person’s sides, to tilt their head backwards, close their eyes, and estimate the passage of thirty seconds before opening their eyes again.

Any person who operates a vehicle on public premises or the highways of Oregon is deemed to have given implied consent to field sobriety tests that are requested by a police officer that reasonably suspects the person of driving under the influence of intoxicants. Before the tests are administered, the person must be informed of the consequences of refusing to take the tests. If a person refuses or fails to submit to field sobriety tests, evidence of the person’s refusal is admissible in any criminal or civil action arising out of allegations that the person was driving while under the influence of intoxicants.

Field sobriety tests can be challenged. A person may fail a field sobriety test for reasons other than impairment caused by alcohol. Injury, sickness, and fatigue can also explain a person’s failure of a field sobriety test. Weather conditions can also influence the results of a field sobriety test. Conditions such as wind, rain, and darkness can lead to a field sobriety test being inaccurate and unreliable. Additionally, a person can challenge field sobriety tests by arguing that the tests were conducted incorrectly or that the arresting officer gave poor instructions. A field sobriety test may be challenged if there is any reason besides the influence of intoxicants that might have caused the person to fail the test.

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