The Exit Sequence
They know it’s coming from you and not somewhere else in the vehicle. They’re looking at all of those actions. This sequence is called the ‘exit sequence’.
Now you are standing up, so they’re looking to see if you are wobbling back and forth. Is there unsteadiness? Then they ask you to step to the back of the vehicle, if the officer has video or audio. They’re going to be recording this encounter and they will have to disclose that during first contact with you. They have to let you know.
They have to say, “Just to let you know, this conversation’s being recorded,” or “Just to let you know that we’re being video recorded right now.” Then they ask you to step to the back of the vehicle or somewhere against the side of the vehicle because they are supposed to find you a flat even surface to take the field sobriety test.
Oftentimes, road conditions are such that you’re at an incline or there’s gravel on the surface that will make it difficult for you. That’s a great way to contest the validity of field sobriety test results because they’re only trained to administer them on these certain surfaces. They’re only trained that the clues are accurate if you’re on these surfaces.
If you’re not on surfaces that are relatively easy to navigate, then the results of the test could be completely unreliable.
Interviewer: Do you encounter many cases where women in high heels can’t do them, or what if it’s on the side of a busy highway and they feel they’re going to get hit by a car and they’re intimidated by it?
Shannon: The answer to the woman in high heels is to take off your shoes. Then what you’re walking on are these little pebbles, and your feet are killing you. As far as the oncoming traffic, that skews the results too. I think that is a good argument because when you have fast moving traffic, it’s very distracting. You have lights coming at you, off and on. That can skew the performance of the HGN/BGN test.
Can Physical Disabilities Prevent You From Performing the Field Sobriety Tests?
Interviewer: What about if people have physical problems? Let’s say they’re substantially overweight, or they’re very old where they have neck or knee or back problems, hip problems? Can they be excused from these tests? Are these valid excuses not to do them?
Shannon: Those factors definitely affects the test results, and there are a great number of articles written and some nice research that’s been done recently about how field sobriety tests cannot be used to judge intoxication for people that have physical handicaps or that are elderly. It’s just not accurate. It does not produce accurate results.
Interviewer: What kinds of tests are standard in Oregon? Will they do count the alphabet, or what’s the standard out there?
Shannon: Once they ask you, like I said before, people think, “It doesn’t matter how I performed in responding to the stop. Doesn’t matter what they said or how I spoke to them when I first contacted them. Doesn’t matter how I looked when I got out of the car. This is what matters, the performance on the field sobriety test.”
That’s not true. The officer could have already said, ‘I’m going to arrest this person. I’m just going to get this all on video. I’m going to really start building the case against him by showing that they can’t do these standardized procedures.
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