man taking a field sobriety test

The Different Types of Field Sobriety Tests

While you may have seen someone submit to a field sobriety test in a movie or television show, the reality can be quite different. The important thing to be mindful of is if you ever find yourself in the position of being pulled over on suspicion of DUI and subjected to a field sobriety test, that you remain calm and follow instructions. Cooperate with the officer and carefully listen to their instructions and when to begin the test. While you will be required to consent to take the test, you cannot be forced to participate. Know that if you choose not to consent to the test, however, you will likely be subjected to a Breathalyzer test or taken to the police station.

The Different Types of Field Sobriety Tests

There are several different types of field sobriety tests. Law enforcement officers use these test in order to try and establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. Field sobriety tests have come under fire over the years as being notoriously unreliable predictors of sobriety, or lack thereof. In fact, there has historically been a significantly high failure rate for individuals who are neither under the influence of drugs nor alcohol. 

In an attempt to address the unreliable nature of field sobriety tests, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) established guidelines for certain field sobriety tests in an attempt to make them more accurate. The field sobriety tests that the NHTSA establish guidelines for are referred to as “standardized field sobriety tests.” There are three standardized field sobriety tests and they are:

  • One leg stand: This test involves standing on one foot, placing your hands by your side, and counting. In this test, the officer will be looking for your ability to balance. Swaying or losing your balance will be noted as a sign of intoxication as will any inability to properly follow directions or being unable to count as instructed.
  • Walk and turn: In this test, the officer will instruct you to walk a certain number of steps away, turn around, and walk the same number of steps back while maintaining heel to toe steps along the way. The test is intended to measure your ability to balance, follow directions, and count. Failure to maintain balance, struggling to maintain balance, or difficulty following directions will be noted as a sign of intoxication.
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus: This test involves an officer testing your ability to follow his or her finger or pencil as it is moved approximately six inches from the tip of your nose. Should you be unable to have your eyes smoothly follow the officer’s cue, then you are considered to have failed the test.

There are other lesser used and not standardized field sobriety tests. One is the finger to nose test in which a person will be instructed to close their eyes, extend the arms, and touch the finger to the nose. Any loss of balance will be considered a test failure as will muscle shaking or missing the nose.

DUI Defense Attorneys

To learn more about DUI procedures, talk to the knowledgeable attorneys at Blischak Law. We provide the answers our clients need to be informed on their cases and we provide the dedicated defense counsel needed to effectively fight criminal charges.  Contact us today.