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About Rhode Island Field Sobriety Tests – S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq.

Rhode Island Field Sobriety Tests in Rhode Island

Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) are a set of exercises given to a person suspected of driving under the influence. Generally speaking, field sobriety testing occurs after you have been pulled over and prior to being arrested. These tests are supposed to be given in order to help the officer determine if you are intoxicated but in practice are usually used to provide additional evidence against you at trial.

Field sobriety tests are performed by police officers in Rhode Island to investigate whether you have been driving under the influence of alcohol. These tests were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA has developed detailed procedures for properly administering these field sobriety tests. Many police officers do not administer the test according to their training at the police academy. Even if administered exactly as NHTSA instructs, the field tests are only minimally reliable with studies showing that taken separately the tests are at best 68% reliable. If the tests are given by the police officer improperly, any conclusion based on performance is highly suspect.

What you might not realize is that you do not have to submit to a field sobriety test. While the police might arrest you, they will not have the evidence to obtain a conviction for DUI/DWI. The Following are specifics of field sobriety testing.

HORIZONTAL GAZE NYSTAGMUS

Nystagmus refers to the involuntary jerking movement of the pupil. While nystagmus occurs because of alcohol consumption, there are other causes which would cause such a condition. The HGN (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus) test is usually given first by police officers in Rhode Island. They will tell you to stand still, feet together, with your hands down by your side. The office will tell you to keep your head still and follow the tip of his pen (held out 12 inches from your face) with your eyes. There are three “clues” the officer looks for as signs of intoxication due to nystagmus. A skilled Rhode Island DUI Defense Lawyer will know the “ins” and “outs” of this condition and how it does and does not translate into evidence of intoxication.

NINE-STEP WALK AND TURN

This field sobriety exercise is designed to test both an individual’s cognitive and physical abilities. The suspect is supposed to be taken to a straight line on an even, dry surface free from interference and debris. In practice, the officer might bring you off to the side and tell you to imagine a line. You are told to stand at the beginning of the line, one foot in front of the other, heel to toe. You will be told not to start the test until told to do so. The officer will tell you to take nine steps out, counting out loud, stepping heel to toe, keeping your arms down at your side. After 9 steps out, you will turn (as he will demonstrate), and take nine steps back counting out loud.

According to the NHSTA standards, there are eight cues of impairment:

  • Loss of balance during instruction
  • Starting test before told to do so
  • Stops during performance of test to steady self
  • Fails to touch heel to toe
  • Steps off of line
  • Uses arms for balance (above 6 inches)
  • Loses balance or turns improperly
  • Takes the wrong number of steps

 

If a suspect demonstrates two of these eight cues during the performance of this test, there is a 68% probability the suspect is under the influence of alcohol and has a BAC of .10 or more.

ONE LEG STAND TEST

The one leg stand test is also designed to test the suspect’s cognitive and physical abilities. The officer will tell the suspect to stand feet together, perfectly still with his hands down at his side. He is told not to start the test until he is told.

According to NHSTA standards, the suspect will stand with one foot, 6 inches off the ground, counting out loud until told to stop. The suspect is told to keep his arms down and not raise them for balance. The officer is trained to look for the following cues:

  • Swaying while balancing
  • Using arms for balance
  • Hopping to maintain balance
  • Putting the foot down before completion of the test. If an officer observes two or more of the above cues, there is a 65% probability that the suspect has a blood alcohol content of .10.

 

DUI FIELD SOBRIETY TEST CONDITIONS

For the test to be valid as it is given today, the test has to be given under the same circumstances as it was given when the test was studied and validated. NHSTA gives specific conditions in which the SFST’s are to be given. The officers are trained in these conditions in the academy but often ignore some or all of the requirements (purposefully or unintentionally) out in the field. Regardless of the officers reasoning for not adhering to the proper procedures, the results of a test that was given improperly arguably have little value. Was the road wet, sandy or uneven? Did you perform your tests in the extreme cold or heat? These questions are important and should be discussed with a skilled DUI defense attorney.

NON-STANDARDIZED FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, nine step walk and turn test and one leg stand test are the only three tests which are standardized and validated by NHSTA. In practice, the Rhode Island police commonly employ additional tests in the field. When these tests are utilized in an arrest, it is highly important to have a skilled DUI defense lawyer who can attack the validity of their use. Common non-standardized tests used are as follows:

  • Touching finger to nose
  • Reciting the alphabet test
  • Reverse counting test
  • Coin pickup test

 

You have no obligation to take these tests and you cannot be penalized for refusing them. If you are told by the police to perform field sobriety tests, politely refuse and ask to contact an attorney immediately. As a former State Prosecutor, Rhode Island DUI Defense Attorney Joshua Macktaz not only prosecuted DUI cases but also lectured in-coming police academy cadets on proper drunk driving investigations, field sobriety testing, and prosecutions.

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Josh was very professional. Took time to answer all my questions in a timely fashion. Made me feel at ease about the situation. Great lawyer
Brandon Nantais
Brandon Nantais
10:06 07 May 19
Mr. Macktaz is an outstanding lawyer. He goes above and beyond for his clients making sure they get the best possible outcome there is! He believes good people sometimes make bad mistakes. I would highly reccommend his services. He will be with you every step of the way.
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Haley Nims
17:00 05 May 19
Josh Macktaz is is an excellent attorney who really goes above and beyond for his client.I found him to be very trustworthy and intelligent. I had a technical probation violation. I needed a good lawyer for representation and Josh came highly recommended. He was very honest, respectful and made you feel at ease throughout the whole process. I would highly recommend him to family & friends.Thank You Josh & God Bless -Sam
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Aly Starr
Aly Starr
02:27 25 Feb 19
My Experience with Josh representing me was beyond what I could have hoped for. Josh explained his thoughts and exceptions on my case & followed through to receive the best outcome.. Cannot thank you enough Josh!
Troy McGann
Troy McGann
13:12 15 Jan 19
I highly recommend the services of Josh Macktaz. He was responsive, efficient and very realistic about my case and the associated penalties. My legal costs were exactly as he suggested on our first call (which were fair). He is very knowledgeable of the Rhode Island law and has very strong contacts at the traffic tribunal. Related, he handled minor hearings without me which saved me money and travel time. He did the best possible job for a guy in my situation. Anyone that has a drunk driving charge in RI that does not consider Josh Macktaz is risking their future and wasting their dollars.
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Chad M
23:10 13 Jan 19
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14:08 22 Dec 18
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Susan DeFedele
Susan DeFedele
06:41 14 Dec 18
We always dealt with Josh Macktaz directly. He walked us through every step of the process and answered all our questions. His representation for us in the court room was handled professionally and we are extremely happy with the outcome.
Cheryl DeFeo
Cheryl DeFeo
00:24 14 Dec 18
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04:46 06 Oct 18
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Chris Baccelli
Chris Baccelli
19:59 12 Sep 18
After meeting with several lawyers I chose Mr. Macktaz to represent me. His professionalism and positive attitude helped ease the stress of a difficult situation. Josh provided a detailed timeline of the court process and was clear on what my expectations should be. He was prompt in returning my calls and answered any questions or concerns that I had. I would recommend Josh to anyone in need of representation as he went above and beyond in securing the best possible outcome for my case.
Paul DiLorenzo
Paul DiLorenzo
04:31 14 Aug 18
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jose carrion
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23:23 11 Aug 18
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Uodam Sann
Uodam Sann
15:08 10 Aug 18
I will start off by saying I knew nothing about the criminal or traffic court system until March 2018. I made a choice to have one too many and was arrested (DUI). Dealing with the embarrassment of an arrest and fear of losing my job, I "google searched for a DUI lawyer" and Josh Macktaz name appeared. Although apprehensive about using a a Google Review to determine my future, I made the call. This is my experience... 1) Mr. Macktaz made time to meet me the day I outreached him. (free consultation)2) During our initial meeting Macktaz outlined in detail what I had ahead of me; including court dates and car insurance details.3) Mr. Macktaz was at every court appearance and explained what was going to happen in court and the potential outcome.4) He was confident in what the outcome would be... and he was right!In closing... would I retain Mr. Macktaz if I ever needed criminal representation again? Yes, he would be my first phone call. He continually follows up with his clients. I never felt the need to outreach Mr. Macktaz since he called or emailed first!
Paul
Paul
22:15 03 Jul 18
Professional, experienced and extremely knowledgeable! Josh took the time to answer all my questions, and was always very responsive. He was able to put my mind at ease. He was able to get my charges dismissed and my case expunged. Best Attorney in RI!!!
LORENZO CAIANI
LORENZO CAIANI
15:56 09 May 18
Josh was very professional and extremely knowledgeable of my situation. He took the time to meet with me face to face multiple times to gather all the facts so he could develop the best plan possible. After collecting the facts he sat me down and he discussed all the options I had and why certain options may or may not be available in my situation. During this very difficult time, I at least felt comfortable that I received the best possible outcome and Josh is the reason why. A true professional through and through.
Neal Manaskie
Neal Manaskie
19:28 23 Apr 18
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Dylan Nunez
Dylan Nunez
02:54 22 Mar 18
Josh is unlike any attorney I've ever had contact with: and I have worked with and for several. Customer service is a key part of the great service he personally delivered. It is with great confidence that I am able to refer him. He brought me the best results possible. He also returned every single phone call. Thanks Josh!
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Kathleen Whitmarsh
17:07 13 Mar 18

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