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What are field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Dec 18, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

When the police stop a driver because they are suspected of drunk driving, they can request field sobriety tests. While the police may get the most evidence through chemical tests, they may begin with a field sobriety test.

A field sobriety test is a kind of physical evaluation. There are three approved kinds of field sobriety tests. 

3 kinds of standardized field sobriety tests

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has three kinds of standardized field sobriety tests. Here’s what you should know about each one:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: The police may have a driver focus on a single moving object while only using their eyes and without turning their head. The point of this test is to help police notice eye flickering that might indicate that the driver is drunk.
  • One-legged stand test: The driver may be asked to stand on one leg for a short duration of time. If the driver falls, puts their foot down or uses their hands to stay balanced, then they could fail the test.
  • Walk-and-turn test: This test involves having the driver walk in a straight line, toe-to-heel. If the driver steps off the line or falls, then the police may fail them.

These tests don’t always prove that a driver is drunk. A disability or medication can lead to a failed field sobriety test. 

Understanding non-standardized field sobriety tests

The police can ask drivers to do other kinds of non-standardized field sobriety tests. For example, the police could ask a driver to spell the alphabet backward while touching their toes. Again, these may not always prove the sobriety of a driver. 

If a driver believes they were wrongly accused of drunk driving, then they may need to reach out for legal help.

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