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What are the common types of field sobriety tests?

Although drivers are aware that it is unlawful to drink in excess and then drive, there are several scenarios that might put someone on the road when they shouldn't be. You might think you will be fine based on the number of drinks you have had, only to find that those drinks were mixed a bit stronger than you were used to. This can put you over or near the .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) limit. You might find yourself getting pulled over and asked to take a field sobriety test.

Types Of Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests that are administrated can be either standardized test or non-standardized. Both ask that a driver demonstrate a certain level of responsiveness and coordination that shows they are fit to drive. Standardized tests carry endorsements from the National Highway
Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), while non-standardized tests are less official and could include tasks that the officer makes up as he goes. The most popular standardized tests include:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) - Nystagmus is the involuntary jerking of the eye when looking to the side. If a person is impaired by alcohol, the movement may be more exaggerated than normal. When administrating this test, officers may ask that you follow an object with your eye. If you are unable to do this smoothly, you may "fail" this test.
  • Walk-and-Turn (WAT) - The WAT test shows a person's ability to think and react to two things at once. It asked that nine steps by taken, heel to toe, and that you do the action again in reverse.
  • One Leg Stand (OLS) - The one leg stand asks that the suspect stand with their foot six inches off the ground and balance for 30 seconds. Officers may take a person's difficulty balancing as an indication that they may be impaired by alcohol.

One thing that many people do not realize is although roadside sobriety tests are endorsed by the NHTSA, it does not mean that someone is required to participate if they do not want to. Drinking in excess may cause a person to fail or do poorly on field sobriety tests, but so can various medical conditions. Cooperating with these tests can make some people appear more impaired than they actually are.

Even though it is okay to refuse a field test, it is illegal to refuse the actual breathalyzer, which is administered after the field sobriety tests to confirm BAC. A refusal of a breathalyzer may result in jail time as well as fines. In most cases, if you are faced with a situation where you are at risk of being arrested, it is best to be polite, but offer as little information as possible until you talk to a lawyer. Any arrest can be intimidating, and a DUI arrest can have a major impact on your life. Many times, however, there is a breakdown of proper procedures and protocols by the police, and an experienced DUI defense attorney may be able to work these to your advantage.

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What are the common types of field sobriety tests? | Anthony M. Salerno, P.C.