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Types of Field Sobriety Tests

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

In order for a law enforcement officer to make a DUI arrest, they need to establish “probable cause,” or a confirmed suspicion that a crime (driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol) has been committed. To do this, they use field sobriety tests.

Field sobriety tests come in many different forms, however they’re usually designed to test your ability to handle both mental and physical tasks simultaneously. While this might be difficult for most people do while completely sober, they’re downright impossible to do while drunk, when the brain’s ability to do multiple things at once is inhibited. However, because these tests can turn up so many false positives, it’s imperative that they are properly administered, and even with immense training and practice, law enforcement still make mistakes that lead to false arrests. Thus, the NHTSA has standardized procedures for three fairly-reliable field sobriety tests to make them as accurate as possible: the one leg-stand, the walk-and-turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

One-Leg Stand Test
This test involves the subject standing on one leg, lifting the other, pointing their toes outward, and then performing some sort of mental task, such as counting backwards from 30. The intent is to mix a fairly difficult physical test with a task that requires someone to think. Those who are drunk could struggle to keep their balance or will mess up on the mental task pretty seriously, indicating intoxication.

Walk-and-Turn Test
In this test, the officer will ask the suspected individual to walk heel-to-toe in a straight line for an exact number of steps, kind of like you’re on a balance beam. Once they’ve done that, the officer will instruct them to turn on the spot without lifting their feet, and then immediately walk back the same number of steps. This requires careful focus on listening to instructions along with a somewhat difficult physical test that also has a balance aspect to it. Balance usually disappears quickly when intoxicated.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is perhaps the hardest to fool in that it has a physical task that’s nearly impossible for even the savviest of drinkers to know how to overcome. The officer simply holds up an object, like a pen, small light, or even their finger, and moves it from side to side at the individual’s eye level. The individual must follow the light without moving their head. Those who are intoxicated can’t control the muscles that move their eyes as well, resulting in flickering or twitching motions, known as nystagmus.

Contact a Fort Wayne DUI attorney if you have been arrested and charged with DUI! Contact Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. now at (888) 912-7220 for a case evaluation.
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