3 Types of Field Sobriety Tests

There are three types of sobriety tests law enforcement officers may use when they pull someone over for suspected DUI, each of which we discuss in more detail below. If the driver performs poorly, the officer will likely require her to take a breathalyzer after the field sobriety test.

If you have been arrested for DUI, it is vital to consult a lawyer so that you can understand and exercise your rights. To speak with a DUI lawyer in St. Petersburg about your case, call Goldman Wetzel at 727-828-3900.

1) The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

Nystagmus refers to involuntary jerking eye movements that occur naturally when the eyes move from side to side. When sober, the eyes will rotate at a high peripheral angle. When intoxicated, nystagmus can be exaggerated, resulting in rotation at a lesser angle. People who are under the influence can have difficulty visually tracking a moving object.

During the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, the officer will slowly move an object like a pen or flashlight horizontally and ask the driver to follow it. The officer will watch the driver’s eyes for three indications of impairment:

  1. The eyes jerk distinctly when “at maximum deviation.”
  2. The driver is unable to track the object smoothly.
  3. The eyes begin jerking within 45 degrees of center.

The One-Leg Stand Test

In the one-leg stand test, the officer will instruct the driver to stand with one foot raised approximately six inches parallel to the ground while counting aloud. The officer will ask the suspect to continue counting while standing on one-leg until the officer instructs her to stop.

During the test, which lasts about 30 seconds, the officer will look for four indications of impairment:

  1. Swaying
  2. Using arms to balance herself
  3. Hopping to try to maintain balance
  4. An inability to balance, e.g., putting her foot down

The Walk-and-Turn Test

An officer may also use the walk-and-turn test on a DUI suspect. He will instruct her to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. At the end of the line, she must turn on one foot and return to the starting point in the same manner.

The officer will look for seven markers of impairment:

  1. She begins walking before being instructed to.
  2. She cannot maintain balance while walking.
  3. She stops walking to regain balance.
  4. She takes larger steps, unable to walk heel-to-toe.
  5. She puts her arms to the side for balance.
  6. She loses balance when turning.
  7. She does not take the correct number of steps.

How can Goldman Wetzel help if the police say I failed my field sobriety test?

The team of attorneys at Goldman Wetzel will review the police reports and video evidence in your case to attack the field sobriety exercises. Officers often mark down everything a person does wrong, but never mention all the things the person does correctly.

These exercises are not a true indication of whether a person has their “normal faculties.” So even if a person performs them poorly, we can point to other things they did well, like standing and talking to the officer without swaying or walking around the roadside without any trouble.

Sobriety tests are not 100 percent accurate. There are various reasons a person may perform poorly on them

  • The tests are subjective
  • The officer may not administer them correctly
  • Factors, such as medications, certain medical conditions, age, weight, and fatigue can affect the results

If you failed a sobriety test and have been arrested for a DUI, call Goldman Wetzel in St. Petersburg to start working on your defense: 727-828-3900.