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Standard Field Sobriety Tests for DUI in West Virginia

The standardized field sobriety tests used in West Virginia were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as a way to give officers in the field a method for determining impairment at BACs of 0.1 or greater. There have been constant disputes on whether these field tests are accurate, which have led to some states not allowing field tests to be admissible in court. In West Virginia, however, they are admissible. Here is why:

Individually, these three standardized tests are very much open to error. There is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, which is used to check a DUI suspect’s eyes. It is only reliable 77% of the time, meaning the other 23% may just be unlucky. Then there is the Walk and Turn test, which makes the suspect walk nine steps on a straight line, turn and go back nine steps again. This Walk and Turn Test is accurate 68% of the time. Lastly, there is the One Leg Stand test, which makes the suspect stand in one leg to check his balance. This test is proven to be correct only 65% of the time. However, when these tests are combined into a sequence of acts, they have been shown to be accurate 95% of the time. There has been questions on the credibility of the 95% mark, because these tests have been self-reported by officers who have received specialized training and actually want these tests to be accurate. There was no way of cross-checking the credibility of these reports.

Challenging

In healthy individuals, the one-leg stand test is only 65% accurate, and the walk-and-turn test is only 68% accurate in determining if a person is under the influence. Those persons with injuries, medical conditions, 50 pounds or greater overweight, and 65 years or older cannot be validly judged by these tests.

Non-standardized field tests are invalid in West Virginia. Neither the Federal Government nor medical science considers touching your finger to your nose, or saying the alphabet, or counting backwards, as valid sobriety tests.

It is not required by law in West Virginia for the driver to be submitted to the field sobriety tests. The officer may ask the driver to take the test, but the driver can refuse. However, the driver must be careful because refusing the test can be used against the driver in court. On the other hand, if an officer forces the driver to take any field sobriety test, then the driver cal challenge the test as inadmissible. Finally, if any Field Sobriety Tests were administered improperly, then the results of those tests are not valid evidence of intoxication according to the NHTSA.


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