What Are Field Sobriety Tests and Why Are They Used in Wyoming?
Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) are a series of physical and mental exercises administered by law enforcement officers during traffic stops to assess potential impairment from alcohol or drugs. In Wyoming, they are commonly employed as a preliminary evaluation in Driving While Under the Influence (DWUI) investigations. The purpose of these tests is to gather evidence that may either support or negate the suspicion that a driver is impaired. These tests are standardized to some extent but are not foolproof, and their results can be subject to interpretation.
What Types of Field Sobriety Tests Are Typically Administered?
Three tests are widely considered to be the “Standardized Field Sobriety Tests” and are frequently used in Wyoming:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test: An officer observes the eyes of the person as they follow a slowly moving object, like a pen, horizontally. Nystagmus or involuntary jerking of the eye can indicate impairment.
- Walk-and-Turn Test: The individual is asked to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line, turn on one foot, and return nine steps in the opposite direction. During this test, the officer is looking for signs such as lack of balance, inability to stay on the line, or other indications of impairment.
- One-Leg Stand Test: The suspect is required to stand on one leg, with the other foot approximately six inches off the ground, and count aloud for 30 seconds. Swaying, hopping, or putting the foot down can be interpreted as signs of impairment.
Can I Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test in Wyoming?
In Wyoming, you technically have the right to decline field sobriety tests, as these tests are not mandatory under state law. However, refusing them can lead to certain repercussions. Law enforcement can still arrest you based on other observed indicators of impairment, such as erratic driving, slurred speech, or the smell of alcohol.
Moreover, refusal might be presented in court as evidence of your awareness of your impairment.
How Reliable Are Field Sobriety Tests?
Field sobriety tests are designed to be indicators of impairment but are not definitive proof. Various factors such as age, medical conditions, nervousness, or even road conditions can affect the results. Moreover, the administering officer’s subjective judgment often plays a significant role in the interpretation of these tests. For these reasons, the reliability of field sobriety tests is a matter of contention in legal circles.
What Happens Next If I Fail a Field Sobriety Test in Wyoming?
If an officer determines you have failed the test, he or she will likely arrest you for Driving While Under the Influence. Once arrested, you’ll likely be taken into custody and transported to a local law enforcement facility.
At this juncture, you will typically be subjected to further testing, most commonly a breathalyzer test or possibly a blood test, to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Refusing to take these chemical tests can lead to automatic penalties, including license suspension, under Wyoming’s “implied consent” laws. It’s essential to understand that while you can decline field sobriety tests without immediate legal penalties, the same does not apply to these chemical tests.
After the chemical tests, you will be formally booked. This involves being photographed, fingerprinted, and having your personal belongings inventoried. At this point, you may be held in a detention facility until you can appear before a judge for your initial hearing, or you might be released on bail, depending on various factors like your criminal history and the severity of the alleged offense.
The next steps in the legal process will include an arraignment, where you will be formally charged and will enter a plea, followed by pre-trial hearings, and potentially a trial. Throughout these stages, the evidence gathered during the field sobriety tests, as well as the subsequent chemical tests, will play a significant role in the prosecution’s case against you.
Given the seriousness of these steps and the complexity of DWUI laws in Wyoming, legal representation becomes critical. An attorney can evaluate the procedures followed during your arrest, the validity of the field sobriety tests, and the accuracy of any chemical tests administered. Challenging these elements could result in the dismissal of charges or a reduction in penalties.
What Are My Rights During a Field Sobriety Test?
You have several rights during a field sobriety test that you should be aware of:
- Right to Remain Silent: You don’t have to answer questions that could incriminate you.
- Right to Decline the Test: As mentioned earlier, field sobriety tests are not mandatory in Wyoming.
- Right to Legal Representation: If arrested, you have the right to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
Being aware of these rights can be advantageous, but they must be exercised correctly and respectfully to be effective.
How Can an Experienced Attorney Help?
The nuances of field sobriety tests in Wyoming make it imperative to consult an experienced attorney if you’re facing DWUI charges. An attorney can scrutinize the manner in which the tests were administered and can potentially challenge their validity in court. They can also guide you through complex legal proceedings, represent your interests during plea negotiations, and provide advice tailored to Wyoming-specific laws. Most importantly, an attorney can help ensure that your rights are adequately protected throughout the legal process.
If you’ve been subject to a field sobriety test in Wyoming and are facing DWUI charges, call Cowboy Country Criminal Defense at 307-243-4978 to schedule a strategy session today!