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Standard Field Sobriety Tests for DUI in South Carolina

Field sobriety tests are used in South Carolina to gauge the sobriety of a driver. Field sobriety tests are also used to determine probable cause of an arrest for a DUI. Field sobriety tests cannot be used to determine a driver’s blood alcohol level. In South Carolina, field sobriety tests must be videotaped. The videotaping must begin the moment the officer puts on the lights to pull the driver over and last until the arrest has been completed, including submission of a breath sample. The videotape can be used as evidence for both parties.

During the field sobriety tests, the driver will be asked to perform a number of tests. One test alone can’t accurately indicate sobriety or intoxication. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined three standardized field sobriety tests. The three tests admitted sequentially will yield the most accurate results.

The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) refers to the lateral or horizontal jerking when the eye gazes to the side. If a driver is impaired by alcohol consumption or other impairments, the ability of the brain to correctly control eye muscles will cause the jerk or bounce in the eye. However, it must be shown that the officer was duly qualified to conduct the test. The officer must have met the training requirements of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the officer went through the complete training program.

The officer will then use the “stand on one leg” test. This will measure the driver’s balance. Usually the officer will ask the driver to raise one foot six inches off the ground while keeping their arms at the side. Once in that position, the driver must then count out loud to 30 before putting their foot back down. The officer is looking for any clues that the driver is intoxicated. If the officer witnesses any excessive swaying, using arms for balance, hopping to maintain balance or putting their foot down, it could be a sign that the driver is under an intoxicant.

The last test is the “walk and turn” test. The driver is asked to take a specified number of steps from heel-to-toe along a straight line. After completing the steps, the driver will be asked to turn on one foot and return in the same way along the original path. The officer will look if the driver can’t maintain balance, if the driver takes the incorrect number of steps or if they use their arms to balance.

The three cumulative test results are more accurate than each individual test.


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