The Different Types of Field Sobriety Tests

When you are pulled over on a suspicion that you have been drinking and driving, it is likely that you will be subject to one or more field sobriety test. A field sobriety test involves performing certain tasks in order for the law enforcement officer to evaluate whether or not you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The tests are physical tests intended to see whether you perform the actions as one who is intoxicated.

The National Highway Safety Administration has only approved three “standardized field sobriety tests (SFST).” While even these three approved tests have faced scrutiny regarding the accuracy of the results, they are still frequently employed during traffic stops. Each of the three approved tests involves testing different skills and reactions of the person suspected of driving under the influence.

What does a Field Sobriety Test Involve?

The three National Highway Safety Administration approved SFSTs are:

  • One-legged stand
  • Walk and turn
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus

The one-legged stand test is pretty self-explanatory. The officer directs the driver to stand straight and lift one leg approximately 6 inches off the ground. The officer then assesses how the driver is balanced. If the driver is having extreme difficulty balancing, repeatedly touching the ground with the foot that is supposed to be raised, or flailing in an attempt to balance, this will further the suspicion that he or she has been drinking and driving. Generally speaking, sober individuals would not struggle too much with standing on one leg.

The walk and turn test is also relatively self-explanatory and may also be one of the most recognizable SFSTs. The driver will be instructed to walk nine steps in a straight line, heal to toe. The driver will then have to turn around and walk back in the same manner. This is also a balance test. A driver who is above the legal .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) is likely to have difficulty following the officer’s instruction and also have difficulty maintaining balance as they walk and turn.

In the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, an officer takes a pen or some other kind of object and moves it side to side. The driver must follow the pen with their eyes. The officer is looking to assess the involuntary eye movement that occurs when a person looks side to side. While a sober individual will have some eye darting as they look side to side, this is a natural response, an intoxicated individual will have much more rapid eye movement with this.

Phoenix DUI Attorney Fighting for You.

The accuracy of field sobriety tests has been largely criticized for years. Being pulled over and ordered to take these tests by a law enforcement officer creates a level of anxiety that can greatly alter the results of these tests. A person wobbling as they walk the line or stand on one leg could just be suffering from the extreme stress of the situation. A person with excessive eye darting could be on legally prescribed medication that causes this kind of side effect. There are many things that can be challenged in the process that can eventually lead to a DUI charge. The dedicated DUI defense attorneys at Arizona Lawyers are well versed in the weaknesses associated with the DUI process and we use that to effectively challenge DUI charges brought against our clients. If you are facing a DUI charge, don’t wait. Contact us today.