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What are field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Dec 16, 2022 | Drunk Driving

It’s commonly known that if a police officer performs a traffic stop on a suspected drunk driver that they’ll ask for a Breathalyzer test. This handheld sobriety testing device examines the blood-alcohol content (BAC) of a person and can help determine if they’re driving while impaired.

It’s less commonly known that police may hold off from using a Breathalyzer test and instead ask the driver to perform a field sobriety test to collect more evidence on their suspect. But what is a field sobriety test and what evidence do the police try collect? Here’s what you should know:

Three kinds of field sobriety tests are in common use

There are three commonly used field sobriety tests police use to evaluate whether a person is sober or not. This may be better understood in the following examples:

  • Horizontal eye test: police ask the suspect to follow a finger, pen or light with just their eyes while looking for delayed actions or involuntary eye movements
  • Walk-and-turn test: police ask the suspect to walk in a straight line and return to where they started while looking for stumbling and failed instructions
  • One-legged stand test: police ask the suspect to stand on one leg while watching for unbalance or falling

While these tests may signify that a driver is inebriated, they’re very subjective – and that makes them prone to errors. Fortunately, unlike a chemical breath test, drivers are under no obligation to submit to standardized field sobriety tests – and that makes them wise to refuse.

People need to know their legal rights when accused of drunk driving. An experienced defense is best.