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What is a field sobriety test and do you have to do it?

On Behalf of | May 25, 2023 | Drunk Driving Defense

A traffic stop can happen when the police have reasonable suspicion that a vehicle is in the process of violating the law or will violate the law. Many police officers have reasonable suspicion that a driver is drunk when they see a car speeding, swerving between lanes or running lights.

To determine whether a driver is, in fact, drunk, the police can conduct a field sobriety test. Here’s what you should know about field sobriety tests.

3 kinds of standardized field sobriety tests

A field sobriety test is a kind of physical examination of a driver’s sobriety levels. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has sanctioned three standardized field sobriety tests: 

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: the driver follows a moving object to show the ability to stay focused
  • Walk-and-turn test: the driver walks in a straight line and walks back to show their ability to balance and follow instructions
  • One-legged stand test: the driver stands on one leg to show their balance and muscle control

If the driver fails any of these tests, an officer may suspect that the driver has been drinking.

Understanding non-standard field sobriety tests?

The police can conduct more than the three standard field sobriety tests listed above. Any other kind of test is considered non-standard. A non-standard test could involve a driver listing the alphabet backward while touching their nose. 

Your legal rights during a traffic stop

Many people fail field sobriety tests while sober. There are many reasons this can happen, such as an officer misjudging a driver’s condition or a driver failing a test because of a disability. It’s wise to learn more about your legal rights and understand what options you have during a traffic stop. If you’re charged with drunk driving, it’s definitely time to explore you defense options.