Understanding How Field Sobriety Tests Impact DUI Arrests

The Most Common Way DUI Arrests Are Made – Field Sobriety Tests

Although drunk driving laws and penalties vary from one state to another, police officers all over the United States administer the same field sobriety tests to determine whether suspected drivers are under the influence of alcohol or not. They fall into two categories – standardized and non-standardized tests. They help police officers to establish probable cause to make an arrest as they estimate driver’s BAC or blood alcohol content.

If you get pulled over under the suspicion of drunk driving, officers will perform a three-part standardized field sobriety test. Thanks to these tests, they will be able to observe your physical ability, balance, the level of attention, and other factors that can be used to check whether you are under the influence of alcohol or not.

Standardized Sobriety Tests

The first test police officers administer, is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. You will need to follow a flashlight or a different object with your eyes, back and forth. Officers will be watching for involuntary jerkiness in the way your eyes follow the object. Involuntary jerking when you gaze to the side is a natural occurrence. However, if it is exaggerated, it means that you are intoxicated by alcohol. Police officers search for three cues of impairment – distinct jerking at the eyes’ maximum deviation, jerking that starts within 45 degrees of the center, and the lack of ability to follow an object smoothly while it is moving. According to estimates, this test is 88% accurate. Although failing this test usually means that a driver has a BAC of .08% of higher, some individual’s eyes simply behave that way when they are sober.

The second test police officers use, is the walk-and-turn test. Its purpose is to test whether you can complete given tasks with undivided attention. You will have to take nine steps, turn on one foot, and return in the same way. You will need to do it along a straight line. Your hands need to be at your sides, and your eyes down. During this test, you are not allowed to stop or tremble. You will be suspect if you take an incorrect number of steps, step off the line, make an improper turn, or if you are not able to keep balance.

The third test is the one-leg stand test. Police officers will ask you to stand with one foot in the air, above the ground. While standing like that, you will have to count for 30 seconds. You shouldn’t use your arms to maintain balance, sway while balancing, put your foot down, or hop, as these are the indicators that you are under the influence.


Non-standardized Sobriety Tests

Besides the three standardized tests, in some cases, police officers use additional tests, such as asking you to recite the alphabet, count backwards, close your eyes, touch your nose with one finger, and to count the number of fingers they raise. They might also tell you to stand with your feet together and tip your head backwards. If you fail these tests, there are still chances to avoid DUI charges, as none of them are 100% accurate. An attorney will help you navigate the tests.