The state of Ohio requires law enforcement to administer field sobriety tests in substantial compliance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) manual. This manual provides that drivers who are more than 50 pounds overweight may have difficulty performing the field sobriety tests, specifically the one leg stand test.
A driver being overweight could then lead to the suppression of their performance on the one leg stand test, right? Not necessarily. One driver recently raised this as an issue in State v. Kaczmarek.
In Kaczmarek, the driver was pulled over after an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper observed the driver speeding on I-71. After stopping the driver, the trooper believed that the driver gave unusual answers to several questions, and the officer detected the smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath.
The trooper asked the driver to perform several field sobriety tests, including the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), walk and turn (WAT) and one leg stand (OLS) tests. The driver failed these tests and was arrested for DUI/OVI. The driver would later blow 0.101 on the breathalyzer, which is over the legal limit.
Suppression of the HGN Test
The HGN test, which is commonly referred to as the “eye test,” was suppressed because it was not conducted in substantial compliance with the NHTSA manual. Specifically, the court found that the HGN test was conducted in view of the trooper’s cruiser lights, the trooper’s stimulus was positioned incorrectly multiple times, and the test was conducted for an incorrect duration.
Walk and Turn and One Leg Stand Tests Upheld
In regards to the walk and turn and one leg stand tests, the driver argued that because he was overweight at the time of the administration of these tests, the trooper should not have given him the tests. Specifically, the driver argued that the trooper failed to appropriately screen him because he was more than 50 pounds overweight and, thus, the tests should never have been conducted at all.
The NHTSA manual states for the one leg stand test that “the original research indicated that certain individuals over 65 years of age, individuals with back, leg or inner ear problems, or people who are overweight by 50 pounds or more had difficulty performing this test.”
However, despite this statement in the NHTSA manual, the court in Kaczmarek held that while the statement may caution law enforcement about administering the test to those 50 pounds of more overweight, nothing in the manual excludes those individuals from being asked to complete the OLS test. Essentially, being of an appropriate weight is not a prerequisite for the administration of this field sobriety test.
Therefore, the court held that the walk and turn and one leg stand tests were conducted in substantial compliance with the NHTSA manual. However, this does not preclude the driver from arguing at trial that his weight “caused” him to fail the test.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio DUI/OVI Attorney
If you have been charged with DUI/OVI in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Johnson Legal, LLC and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC will discuss your case and assist you in fighting the charges. Call (614) 987-0192 or send an email to schedule a consultation regarding your DUI/OVI case.