Field sobriety tests are conducted by police officers when they suspect a driver may be intoxicated. Police use these tests to gain evidence of a person’s intoxication so they can make an arrest for DUI. However, these tests are often a poor indication of a person’s actual level of intoxication. Many people are simply uncoordinated and can’t pass the tests dead sober.
Here are three of the most common field sobriety tests:
- Walk & Turn. This is a very simple test in which you walk in a straight line, heel-to-toe for about 10 paces, before turning (pivoting off the front foot), and retracing your steps. Sometimes an officer will have you count the number of steps you’re taking as well. This is to test your ability to multitask.
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. In this test, the officer will place a pen in front of your face and ask you to follow it with your eyes as he moves it right to left. You are only allowed to move your eyes to follow the pen, moving your head will result in failure. Here the officer is checking for nystagmus – the involuntary jerking of the eyes that intensifies with alcohol consumption.
- One legged stand. This one is just what it sounds like. The officer will ask you to raise your foot six inches from the ground and count out loud. Additionally, you are required to keep your arms down at your sides (instead of using them for balance). Here the officer is looking for your ability to balance your body. Swaying, flailing your arms, or putting your foot down, are all seen as signs of possible impairment. This test is very subjective, as some people simply have terrible balance and wouldn’t be able to ace the test sober.
As you can tell, these tests are incredibly subjective. Officers only use them to gain reasonable suspicion that you’ve been drunk driving, so they can arrest you and administer a BAC test. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to know your rights, and contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
I can’t stand on one foot sober. I’ve always heard that one should never consent to a breathalyzer. Is that really the best course of action if pulled over for a DUI?
Excellent question! We will be addressing that and other do’s and don’ts when pulled over in an upcoming blog. Keep an eye out!
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