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DUI Field Sobriety Tests in Johnson County

Johnson County DUI Defense Attorney (Shawnee-Overland Park-Merriam-Olathe-Lenexa-Leawood-Mission-DeSoto-Gardner-etc.)

Field sobriety tests are often used by police officers during DUI stops to gauge whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol. Our firm believes that field tests are inaccurate in determining intoxication. If you have been arrested for a DUI based upon the results of a field sobriety test, it is important that you speak with a lawyer who can review all of the evidence and can defend your legal rights.

At the law firm of Jeremiah L. Johnson, LLC, our experienced DUI defense attorney has handled hundreds of DUI and DWI cases throughout Johnson County and elsewhere in Kansas including Overland Park, Olathe, Leawood, Lenexa, Mission, Shawnee, Merriam, Gardner, etc.  It is critical to take action following a DUI arrest to avoid a jail sentence and prevent your driver's license from being automatically suspended.

Our firm's drunk driving defense laywer knows that field sobriety tests are often inaccurate, are given incorrectly, or are graded incorrectly and we can expose the flaws in these tests while building a strong case for our clients.

DUI Field Sobriety Tests in Johnson County

The most commonly used field sobriety tests utlized by Johnson County law enforcement officers include:

  • One-leg stand: a balancing test where a driver is told to stand on one leg with arms down at his or her sides.
  • Walk and turn: a test that gauges balance and the ability to follow the instructions of the officer at the same time. This requires a split focus between the physical test and listening to the officer, which can make the test fairly inaccurate.
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN): an eye test, where an officer will ask the driver to follow a pen or object (this is considered extremely inaccurate).

In addition to field sobriety tests, an officer may also ask a driver to take a Breathalyzer test at the scene, called a "preliminary breath test."  A preliminary breath test at the scene of the arrest is preliminary and is not mandatory.  If the preliminary breath test is refused, the penalty is a simple traffic fine that does not even count as a moving violation.

The blood, breath, or urine test requested after the police officer has read Kansas' "implied consent advisory" is mandatory

After the driver is arrested for drunk driving and the driver is brought down to the police station, the blood, breath (such as the Intoxilyzer 8000), or urine test requested by the police officer is mandatory. If the test is refused here, jail time is mandatory and the driver's license will be suspended just for refusing.

Contact Jeremiah L. Johnson, LLC, for a No-Cost Initial Consultation

For more information about field sobriety tests and DUI charges, contact the law offices of Jeremiah L. Johnson, LLC. Schedule a no-cost, no-risk initial consultation by calling us toll free at 866-656-1268 or by sending us an e-mail.

The "Walk and Turn" test requested by most Johnson County DUI enforcment officers:

The most recognized field side test is the "walk and turn" test.  This is usually requested by Johnson County DUI enforcement officers (such as those from Overland Park, Lenexa, Leawood, Olathe, or Mission) following the "HGN test."

Test conditions necessary for a proper walk and turn test in Johnson County, Kansas:

According to NHTSA, the government body which came up with this test, the "Walk-and-Turn" test requires a designated straight line, and should be conducted on a dry, hard, level, non-slippery surface, under relatively safe conditions."

Even though the validity of the test is compromised by the officer's failure to adhere to these simple requirements, in Johnson County, police officers from agencies such as Olathe, Overland Park, or Leawood often force suspects to perform this exercise in the dark on uneven, wet, slippery, slopes littered with debris. If the roadway has no line, officers from police departments such as Lenexa, Mission, Shawnee, or Merriam will instruct suspects to imagine that there is such a line and perform the test anyway. At trial, these officers will claim that the suspect stepped off the line which is often not recorded by the officer's in car camera because the viewing angle is too high. It is very rare for an officer to have a suspect perform the exercise elsewhere, even if the recommended conditions exist just across the street.

As a result, almost every person subjected to these tests "fails" them - our research has shown that on average, only about 3% of drivers coming into our office have passed the walk and turn test.

These grading criteria purport to show that the test subject is drunk because their balance and coordination are not up to par. The biggest problem with this idea is that it doesn't take into account that many people can't perform the tests, even when sober. The walk and turn test requires drivers to walk in a manner that is completely unnatural and unfamiliar to them. Only one chance is given and if the driver fails, they're likely going to be arrested. The grading of these tests do not take into account the fact that people may have injuries that do not allow then to perform the tests whether sober or drunk. The tests do not take into account that age, weight, gender, and athletic ability play a part in how well a person can perform these tests.

During the walk and turn test, the Johnson County police officer watches for "distinct clues" such as:

1. Observing whether the driver maintains his/her balance during the instructions. This grading criteria is extremely unfair because the instructions are given only after the Olathe cop has forced the driver to stand with one leg in front of the other. Try it - this is a very unnatural and uncomfortable position and the officer will grade against you if you move your feet to readjust or if you sway back and forth, even slightly. It is important to note that the officer will not stand in this manner even though he requires the driver to do so.  Most people fail the walk and turn test before they even begin walking as they will shift thier feet and arms while the officer is giving instructions. Each action is considered a "clue" and two clues count as a failure.  I am not making this up.

2. Observing whether a driver starts the test before they're told to. This grading criteria purports to grade whether a person can follow instructions which the testing agency believes may be a sign of impairment. The problem with this is that the Olathe police officer will not make it clear beforehand that starting early will be counted against a driver. The nervousness that drivers face while being forced to perform these tests often contributes to them starting early.
3. Whether the driver stops during the test to steady themselves.

4. Observing if the driver does not touch heel-to-toe (space 1/2 inch or more).

Believe it or not, the officer will not have a ruler and will simply "eyeball" the measurement.  This is rarely caught on video, so it will end up being your word versus the officer's.

5. Watching to see if the driver steps off of the line, whether the line is real or imaginary.

This sounds unfair, and it is.  You're supposed to imagine the same line that the Olathe officer has imagined in his head.  Whether you step off of it or not is entirely up to him.

6. Observing whether the driver raises either arm more than 6 inches from their body.
This, as with all of the other "clues" does not take a person's natural balance or coordination into account.  Fortunately, this criteria is more easily observed on the officer's in-dash video for later review.

7. Counting to see if the driver takes the correct number of steps. This criteria supposedly shows whether the driver was paying attention during the instruction phase of the test. It does not take into account that folks on the side of the road have many distractions and are likely extremely nervous when the instructions are given to them. While the officer may be used to standing on the side of the road with emergency lights flashing and traffic driving by, the driver probably is not, but this is not factored into the grading. It is also important to note that the Olathe police officer will typically demonstrate only 3 steps, not the 9 that are required.


8. Observing whether the driver makes an "improper turn." This criteria purports to demonstrate both the ability to remember the directions given and the coordination to make the "proper" turn, which is a very unnatural manuever. Olathe police vary as to the way they instruct the turn to be performed, with some asking for a "series of small steps" and others asking for a "clockwise pivot." In any case, the officer will not take into account the driver's natural coordination and ability when grading this portion of the test.

Johnson County law enforcment's walk and turn test grading criteria:

The NHTSA instructs police officers such as those from Gardner, DeSoto, or Prairie Village to "classify the suspect as impaired" if he or she exhibits two or more distinct clues on this test or if he fails to complete it. Even if the "test" conditions are ideal, the officer's instructions perfect, and his grading accurate and fair, he will only be "able to correctly classify about 68% of [his] suspects."
That, of course, means that even the most competent officers routinely flunk 32% of the sober people who submit to the exercise. When we consider that most of these officers vary their instructions and disregard defective conditions, these officers will almost never accurately classify the unfortunate motorists they stop.