What are police looking for in field sobriety tests?

“Have you been drinking?” It’s certainly not a question anyone wants to answer when asked by a police officer? The officer may also ask that you perform field sobriety tests so that he or she can make a determination as to whether or not you were driving while impaired or intoxicated.

What is the officer looking for in those field sobriety tests anyway? The answer depends on the test. The Standardized Field Sobriety Test consists of three tests: the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn and the horizontal gaze nystagmus.

In the one-leg stand, the officer will ask you to put your arms down at your side and raise your foot in front of you a certain distance off the ground. You will then be asked to count for 30 seconds. The officer is looking for you to use your arms for balance, put your foot down, hop or sway while balancing.

In the walk-and-turn test, the officer will ask you to take a specific number of steps heel-to-toe in a straight line, turn around using one foot and return using the same heel-to-toe step. The officer is looking for you to follow directions and if you can complete the task even though your attention is divided.

In the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the officer is looking for the involuntary jerking of the eyes that occurs when someone is impaired. The officer will ask that you follow an object with your eyes, and he or she will look for distinct eye jerking at maximum deviation and when the eye is within 45 degrees of center.

Field sobriety tests can be challenged in court and this could be part of your defense strategy if your attorney believes there was an issue with the test or the results.

Source: FindLaw, “Field Sobriety Tests,” accessed May 20, 2016

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