DUI/DWI Field Sobriety Tests

by Adam Rosenblum

If you are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, the police officer will administer field sobriety tests to determine whether or not you are intoxicated. Field sobriety tests are designed to test your reflexes, coordination, balance, and cognitive functioning. These tests are also used to establish probable cause to administer a chemical test, such as a blood test or breathalyzer. The results of field sobriety and/or chemical tests can be presented as evidence in court, but a defense attorney can challenge the results when fighting the charge.

The three most commonly administered  field sobriety tests are the ones recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
  • Walk-and-Turn
  • One Leg Stand

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: The officer will have you follow the horizontal movement of a pen, flashlight, or finger as he moves it across your field of vision. In this test, officers are looking for twitching or jerking of the eyeball to indicate alcohol consumption and/or intoxication.

Walk-and-Turn: You will be asked to walk a certain number of steps in a line, then turn around and walk the same amount of steps back. This test measures balance; inability to walk the line steadily can indicate drunkenness.

One Leg Stand: The officer will ask you to stand on one leg, hold your opposite foot approximately six inches from the ground, and count for 20 to 30 seconds to observe how well you can maintain balance and follow instructions. A driver can fail this test if there is any swaying in place, hopping on one foot, holding onto something for balance, or if the foot goes down before the 30 seconds are up.

Other field sobriety tests an officer may administer include asking a driver to count backwards or recite parts of the alphabet as well as the Finger-to Nose test, the Finger Dexterity Test, and the Romberg Balance Test. The Finger Dexterity Test involves asking you to count by touching thumb to fingers. The Romberg balance test requires you to hold your balance for about 30 seconds while standing with feet together, eyes closed, and head tilted back.

 

Can You Refuse to Take the Field Sobriety Test?

The police can tell you to step out of the car and you must follow those instructions. However, when the police ask you to perform tasks in an effort to judge your sobriety, you have the right to refuse and there is no penalty for doing so. Refusing will require the police to find some other probable cause before they can move to the next step of administering a chemical test.

However, be careful that you do not become confrontational with police and remember to be respectful when you say that you do not want to perform the tests. Also, keep in mind that you do not have the same right to refuse a breathalyzer or blood test.

 

Who Should You Contact?

If you were charged with drunk driving (DWI/DUI), contact the Rosenblum Law Firm. Our attorneys have years of experience fighting DWI cases and obtaining excellent results for our clients. E-mail or call us today at 888-815-3649 .