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Understanding standardized field sobriety tests 

On Behalf of | May 17, 2023 | Personal Injury

The police have the right to pull drivers over if there’s enough reasonable suspicion. During the traffic stop, the police may ask the driver to do field sobriety tests.

Field sobriety tests intend to help the police judge whether a driver is drunk. Three tests are sanctioned by the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration. Here’s what you should know about them:

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN)

The police may use a horizontal gaze nystagmus test to determine a driver’s focus. During an HGN test, the driver will have to keep their eyes on a finger, pen or light. The driver will then have to keep their head still as the officer moves the object. If the police notice the driver struggling to keep their eyes focused, they may assume the driver is drunk.

The walk-and-turn test (WAT)

The driver may be asked to stand in a line and walk back and forth – this is called a walk-and-turn test. The police may ask the driver to walk nine paces out before they return to where they started. If the driver miscounts or can keep straight, they may be inebriated.

The one-legged stand test (OLS)

Finally, the driver may be asked to do a one-legged stand test. During an OLS, the driver will keep one foot off the ground for several seconds. If the driver drops their foot or uses their arms to balance themselves, then they could be drunk. 

Non-standard field sobriety tests (NSFST)

Some officers will ask drivers to do tests that aren’t listed above, which are called non-standard field sobriety tests. For example, an officer may have a driver count fractions of five to prove they’re sober.

Every driver has legal rights during traffic stops. One such right is the refusal of field sobriety tests without penalties. If a driver believes their rights were violated, then they may need to learn their legal options.