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What is a field sobriety test?

On Behalf of | May 25, 2023 | DUI/DWI/Drunk Driving

The police have the right to perform traffic stops if they have reasonable suspicion that a driver is doing something illegal. Reasonable suspicion may look like a driver who may be driving drunk because they’re swerving between lanes or running a red light. A traffic stop intends to preserve public safety and prevent fatal auto accidents.

During the traffic stop, if the police do suspect a driver is intoxicated, the police may ask the driver to participate in standardized field sobriety testing (SFST). These tests intend to judge whether a driver is drunk or not. Here’s what you should know about SFSTs:

There are 4 kinds of field sobriety tests

Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines, there are three standardized field sobriety tests. The following explains what you would have to do during these tests:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN): The driver will have to focus on a single point, such as a finger and pen, without moving their head during a horizontal gaze nystagmus test. The object will move and the police will evaluate the driver’s eyes and focus.
  • One-legged stand test (OLS): The driver will be asked to keep one foot off the ground during a one-legged stand test. The police will wait for about half a minute before letting the driver set their foot down. This test intends to evaluate a driver’s balance.
  • Walk-and-turn test (WAT): The police will have the driver walk in a straight line during a walk-and-turn test. The driver will walk several paces out, turn and return to where they started. If the driver stumbles or can’t walk straight, then they may be inebriated.

There’s a fourth kind of test called a non-standard field sobriety test. An NSFST is anything other than the three tests formerly mentioned. This could mean the driver is asked to recite the alphabet backward to multiply numbers as a show of sobriety. 

Your legal rights when asked to take an SFST

During a traffic stop, you should be aware of your legal rights. For example, you may refuse an SFST without facing penalties. If you believe your legal rights were violated by the police, it may be in your best interest to reach out for legal help.