Field Sobriety Testing: What To Know

If you've found yourself behind bars for driving while intoxicated, you may be feeling some mixed emotions. This is a serious charge, but what if the arrest and charges were unwarranted? It is very likely that the result of a few tests carried out on the side of the road landed you in this predicament, and you may very well be questioning the validity of those tests. Read on to learn more about the three main field sobriety tests and what your failure to pass them means.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

You may have heard of this governmental body; they are charged with a number of tasks, such as ensuring that our cars are safe on the highways. They also set the standards that law enforcement personnel use when they perform the following tests:

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: This mouthful of a test is named for an actual vision disorder where the victim cannot focus and views objects with jerky eye movements. Those impaired with alcohol can show the same jerky movements, particularly at certain points and angles. This test involves the candidate being told to follow an object or light held by the officer as it moves up, down and from left to right. If you imagine that certain eye conditions can mimic the jerky movements, you are correct. If you wear contact lenses, glasses, have a vision or brain disorder, or other medical problems you may be unable to pass this test no matter how sober you are.

Walk and Turn: The law enforcement officer will instruct the candidate to place one foot in front of the other and walk a given number of steps along a straight line, using a heel-to-toe motion. The candidate then takes a series of small steps to turn around and walk back to the starting point. With these tests being carried out on the roadside, it's difficult to assure a flat surface to perform this test. Since alcohol impairment can show up in the inability to balance and to follow instructions properly, failing this test could signal the use of drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, it could also signal uneven ground, nervousness around law enforcement, medically-related balance problems, lack of understanding the language, and more.

One Leg Stand: If a relatively flat surface is available, this test is one of the easiest to pass or to fail, depending on your physical condition. The candidate is instructed to stand with their arms at their sides and to raise the leg of their choice up several inches from the ground and to maintain that stance while counting out loud. Since almost anyone with back, hip, leg, or other physical or neurological difficulties won't be able to pass this test, arrest for impairment may soon follow.

Keep in mind that being charged with a crime, such as DUI, is not the same as being convicted of one. Speak to a criminal defense attorney like Angela L Walker PC and make sure that the field sobriety tests carried out were accurate and that the results were valid.