What Are Field Sobriety Tests? Do I Have to Take Them?

For decades, police officers used a wide variety of field sobriety tests to attempt to determine whether a driver was in fact intoxicated behind the wheel. These tests varied from state to state or county to county, even officer to officer or stop to stop. Some tests were more effective than others at determining intoxication, and some were prone to abuse. However, an important step was taken in 1977 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating these tests and then in 1981 recommended standardized tests to be used during a DUI/DWI traffic stop. Coast-to-coast training sessions have served to help officers perform field sobriety tests in specific ways to further increase their accuracy.

The three standardized tests are:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eye)
  • Walk and turn
  • One leg stand

These are the only three validated field sobriety tests and they must be performed in a particular order to give valid results. In addition, these tests are not considered pass/fail-they only give clues and information. No matter what an officer may have told you during the traffic stop, it is the actual information that is important.

You do not have to take field sobriety tests. The only purpose of a field sobriety test is to give police information and evidence to use in court, and therefore it is often better to refuse to perform field sobriety tests.

If you are facing a DUI/DWI charge and want information on how to obtain an aggressive defense to your DWI/DUI case, please contact Jimeno & Gray today for a consultation.

Posted in: DUI/DWI