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Understanding field sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Jun 29, 2022 | Criminal defense |

If you are facing a DUI charge, field sobriety tests are one type of evidence that may be used against you. Field sobriety tests consist of certain actions that are designed to allow police officers to evaluate a driver’s physical and mental conditions in order to determine whether they are intoxicated.

If you fail a sobriety test, the police may order you to take a breath or blood test, which can provide strong evidence that will be used against you in court.

The Standard Field Sobriety Test

The Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST), which is used in many states, includes three tests: The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk-and-turn and the one-leg stand.

For the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the police officer may ask you to follow a pen with your eyes. The police officer conducting the test is looking to see if the jerking of the eye is distinct when the eye is at maximum deviation; if the angle of the onset of the jerking is within 45 degrees; and if the eye cannot follow the object smoothly. These could indicate intoxication.

When conducting the walk-and-turn test, the police officer will be looking to see if you begin before the instructions are finished; if you cannot maintain balance while listening to instructions; if you cannot touch heel to toe; if you lose balance while turning; if you stop to regain balance while walking; if you use your arms to balance; or if you take an incorrect number of steps.

During the one-leg stand test, the police officer will be looking to determine if you must hop to maintain balance; if you put your foot down; if you sway while balancing; or if you use your arms to balance.

Field sobriety tests and other tests may be used to determine intoxication from drugs as well as alcohol. If you fail a field sobriety test, it can potentially lead to DUI charges.

Technically, you can refuse a field sobriety test, but you may face serious consequences for your refusal, in addition to any other charges. Your best option when faced with drunk driving charges is to understand your criminal defense protections and how to develop a strong criminal defense approach based on your situation.