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Field Sobriety Test Information

Below are the standard field sobriety tests performed by police officers when they stop a person for a DUI

Overview of a DUI Field Sobriety Test

When a person gets stopped on suspicion of drunk driving, the officer who initiated the stop is ultimately looking for a reason to arrest you and charge you with drunk driving DUI, DWI, OWI, whatever your state may call the charge. A DUI arrest is a huge feather in an officer’s cap, all though no police department will ever admit this claim.

The officer who made the DUI stop is going to ask you to perform several field sobriety tests to confirm his or her suspicions that you are indeed under the influence. When the officer asks you to perform these tests, he or she is not going to tell you that you have the legal right to refuse the tests since they are not mandatory in any state. The officer is only concerned about one thing and that is arresting you for DUI. If you perform the field sobriety tests you can be certain that the camera on the cruiser dash was rolling and capturing every moment.

Since you kindly refused to submit to these unflattering tests, the officer is going to inform you that you are under arrest so that he or she can get you down to the police station to take an official breath or blood test to confirm your blood alcohol level. Please note that in every state refusing to submit to an official BAC test is in violation of every single states “implied consent law”. Refusal of an official BAC test will result in a longer driver’s license suspension period and the inability to receive a temporary permit to drive during your suspension period, among other things.

Below are videos that demonstrate the 3 approved field sobriety tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Below each video is an overview of the test along with failure percentage rates. Even though the 3 tests below have been approved on a national level it should be noted that the majority of sober people cannot pass these tests.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

Even though the NHTSA claims that the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test is the most accurate of the 3 approved field sobriety test, the validty of the test depends completely on the officer giving the test to properly administer the test and on his or her ability to properly evaluate the results, hence human error is a huge factor when it comes to the HGN test.

Walk and Turn Test

The NHTSA claims that 79% of the people who fail either part of this divided attention test will have a BAC of .08% or greater. You can imagine being in this situation and trying to listen to the officer’s instructions while performing the test. If you fail either part of this test a combined 3 or more times it is considered a failed test and that you have a BAC of .08% or greater.

Stand on One Leg Test

The officer is looking for four indicators including swaying while balancing, using your arms for balance, hopping to maintain balance, and placing foot down. If you fail on two or more of these indicators you are considered to have a BAC of .08% or greater according to the NHTSA. The NHTSA claims that 83% of the people who perform this test fail two or more parts.

Unapproved Field Sobriety Tests

Here is a list of the typically non-approved field sobriety tests that some officers may use to determine whether or not a person is over the legal limit:

  • Pick Up the Coins Test
  • Finger to Nose Test
  • Hand Pat Test
  • Finger Count Test
  • Alphabet Test
  • Numbers Backward Test
  • Non-Standardized Tests

Here again if you go it alone in court and do not know that these tests are not approved for use by officers, the results could be going against you in court.

Summary of Approved Tests

As you can see the margin for error when it comes to these so called approved field sobriety tests is huge. DUI lawyers know this and if you have a good lawyer on your side in court, he or she can always get the tests results dismissed by the court. But for the individuals who go it alone in court, they do not know how to get these tests dismissed and the court will most likely use the tests results in your conviction.

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