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Field sobriety tests explained

On Behalf of | Nov 29, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

When a driver gets pulled over by the police under the suspicion that they are drunk driving, the police may ask the driver to step out of the car to do field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests are physical examinations that can help the police gather evidence to prove whether a driver is or isn’t drunk. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines and describes several kinds of standardized field sobriety tests. However, drivers may also be asked to perform non-standardized field sobriety tests. Here’s what you should know about each one:

3 kinds of standardized field sobriety tests

There are three kinds of standardized field sobriety tests:

  • The police may start with a horizontal gaze nystagmus test. This test has the driver focusing on a single point. The police are looking for rapid eye movement that might indicate inebriation.
  • A driver may also be asked to do a walk-and-turn test. The driver will have to balance on a line for this test. Falling off the line could cause them to fail the test.
  • Finally, the police may administer a one-legged stand test. The driver will need to lift one leg for several seconds and failing to do so could mean they are drunk.

Failing any of these tests may cause the police to ask drivers to take chemical blood tests. 

Non-standardized field sobriety tests

Alternatively, the police could administer sobriety tests that are non-standardized. A non-standardized test may mean the driver will need to spell the alphabet backward while touching their toes.

Field sobriety test accuracy  

Field sobriety tests may not always be accurate. If a driver has a disability or is suffering from a medical condition, passing these tests may be more difficult. Drivers who are wrongly facing drunk driving charges can benefit from learning more about their defense options.