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Standardized field sobriety tests explained

On Behalf of | Nov 23, 2023 | DUI

The police have several tools and methods to investigate drivers who are suspected of drunkenness. While the police can use chemical breath tests to evaluate the amount of alcohol in a driver’s body, a Breathalyzer may not be their first choice.

Instead, the police may ask a driver to take a standardized field sobriety test. Here is some information about each test drivers may encounter:

Horizontal gaze nystagmus test

The police could evaluate a driver’s focus by using a horizontal gaze nystagmus test. A horizontal gaze nystagmus test begins by having the driver stare at a pen, the officer’s finger or a light. The driver will then keep their head still as the police move the object from left to right. As the driver focuses on the object with their eyes, the police are looking for eye flickers that might indicate inebriation. 

One-legged stand test

A driver may be asked to stand on one leg for several seconds; this is called a one-legged stand test. The police will watch the driver as they hold their balance. The driver could fail the test if they fall over, put their foot down or put their arms out to keep balance. 

Walk-and-turn test

The police may ask the driver to do a walk-and-turn test. This test involves the driver taking several paces toe-to-heel on a straight line. The driver may then have to walk back the same way to where they started. If the driver stumbles or walks off the line, they could fail the test. 

Non-standardized field sobriety tests

Drivers may be asked to take other kinds of tests. If these tests are not sanctioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, then they are non-standardized. A non-standardized test may involve a driver listing the alphabet backward, for example. 

Drivers are under no obligation to submit to these tests, but many do so because they’re intimidated. If a traffic stop eventually leads to a drunk driving charge, it’s always wisest to seek experienced legal guidance.