DUI Field Sobriety Tests

If you are stopped for a traffic offense the police officer may request that you take some field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests are designed to assist law enforcement in an initial determination as to whether someone may be driving while intoxicated. These tests may consist of a number of different actions. If asked to take a sobriety test you can decline. However, keep in mind that the test does not provide a definitive conclusion and is usually only used as a method for the officer to decide whether further testing is warranted. If you have been arrested for DUI it is best to speak to an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible.

About Field Sobriety Tests

There are a number of different tests that are done to help determine sobriety. These tests are generally subjective. This means that the officer viewing the test will determine the results in his or her opinion. Field sobriety tests do not provide scientific results that prove or disprove whether you are drunk. Further, these types of tests do not prove definitively the amount of alcohol that has been consumed. In order to determine how much alcohol has been consumed a blood alcohol content (BAC) test must be done. This is commonly done with a breath, blood, or urine test.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

If an officer thinks you may have been drinking he or she may ask you to take a field sobriety test. There are several tests that are most commonly done in the field. Unlike a BAC test, which is mandatory, you can refuse to take a field sobriety test. However, since the findings of these are not scientific, they don’t hold as much weight in court. Failure to submit to a field sobriety test could simply anger the officer, who may require you to take a BAC test.

  • HGM – Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is test that is done to check your reactions. The test is done very quickly by shining a light (such as a penlight) into the eyes and moving it back or forth. In those who are impaired by alcohol, the eyes will typically jerk quickly from side to side.
  • Walk a Straight Line –  This test requires you to walk a straight line, typically nine steps. The officer will advise you to walk heel to toe, placing your feet directly in front of each other as you walk. This should be done on a flat surface.
  • Stand on One Leg – The officer may check your balance by asking you to stand on one leg. You’ll be asked to hold one leg out in front of your body for a period of time, usually about 10 to 20 seconds.
  • Recite the Alphabet – You may be asked to recite the alphabet or the alphabet backwards. You will be told to speak slowly but not too slowly. If you have trouble remembering the alphabet it may be an indication of impairment.

DUI Defense

If you’ve been charged with DUI the consequences of a conviction can be severe. Remember that you aren’t guilty of DUI unless found guilty in court. If you choose to plead guilty the penalties will immediately apply. Many times there are circumstances surrounding your traffic stop and subsequent arrest that can be used to support a not-guilty finding. Every DUI is different and there are many various circumstances. For the best possible results you should speak to an attorney with DUI experience as soon as possible after your arrest. In some cases, if the evidence against you is not strong, your lawyer may be able to get the charges reduced or dropped. Always talk to a lawyer before speaking with police and don’t admit to having been drinking.