4 Things To Know About Field Sobriety Tests

4 Things To Know About Field Sobriety Tests

Law enforcement officers use field sobriety tests (FSTs) to determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Drivers should understand what these tests entail, common misconceptions, and how to prepare for them. In this comprehensive guide, we unravel the crucial aspects of field sobriety tests.

Different Types of Field Sobriety Tests

Police officers use three standardized FSTs to assess a suspicious driver:

  • In a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) Test, the officer watches the driver’s eyes as they follow a moving object, such as a pen or flashlight. Abrupt jerking movements of the eyes may indicate impairment.
  • During a walk-and-turn test, the officer watches the driver take nine steps in a straight line, turn around, and take nine steps back. This test assesses balance and attention.
  • For a one-leg stand test, the driver must stand on one foot while counting aloud, typically to 30, to evaluate balance, coordination, and focus.

Officers can administer additional tests, such as the Romberg test, finger-to-nose test, and finger count test.

What Are Police Officers Looking For?

During these tests, officers look for signs of impairment:

  • Lack of balance
  • Inability to follow instructions
  • Hesitation or confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow reactions

Note that factors such as fatigue, stress, or medical conditions can influence the results of these tests, leading to false positive indications of impairment.

Common Misconceptions About Field Sobriety Tests

One widespread misconception is that you must be visibly intoxicated or fail multiple tests for the police to arrest you for driving under the influence. However, even if you show minor impairment, the officer may have probable cause to stop you on the road.

Some people believe they have the right to refuse a field sobriety test. While you can decline, it may lead to further investigation or an arrest.

What To Do if You’re Pulled Over for a Field Sobriety Test

You should know your rights and understand what happens during a field sobriety test. If a police officer pulls you over, remain polite and cooperative. However, keep in mind your right to remain silent when asked questions about your alcohol consumption.

Should you fail the field sobriety test or receive a DUI conviction, seeking legal advice from a lawyer can help you navigate the complex legal process and reduce the consequences, such as fines or license suspension. Some states in the US have insurance requirements to get back your license, like the FR44 in Virgina. With this knowledge, you can feel more prepared when faced with a field sobriety test. Following guidelines, understanding the testing process, and seeking legal help when necessary ensures the best possible outcome.