Field Sobriety Tests – Do They Really Uncover Intoxication?

Field sobriety tests have long been used by law enforcement to assist them with gauging a driver's ability to safely drive their vehicles. Unfortunately, the tests aren't always accurate – if the tests are given improperly or the driver has other conditions that could prevent them from being physically able to complete the tests, the results could be skewed.

The three tests most commonly used are the One Leg Stand, Walk and Turn, and Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN). Read through the descriptions and give them each a try – can you do it while you're sober?

One Leg Stand

Stand and hold your arms tightly to your sides. Lift one foot off of the ground, keeping your legs straight. Now, hold it there. Did you do it?

Now, picture yourself standing along a busy road with flashing police lights and spotlights on you. The officer performing the test will be watching for you to wobble, catch your balance by moving your arms out to the sides, hopping, and putting your foot down. If the officer notices that you've done any of these things to maintain your balance, he or she could decide that you've failed the test.

Walk and Turn

This test requires you to take nine steps, turn, and take another nine steps back to where you started. This test does two things – shows your ability to balance and follow the instructions given by the officer. So, give it a try.

Stand in a clear space with a semi-flat surface. Take one step forward placing your heel against the other toe. Take 8 more just like it. When you reach the end, turn and return taking nine steps back.

These tests are supposed to be performed on a flat, dry surface. The officer is supposed to ask if you have any physical impairments that would prevent you from passing such a test. If the test was not performed in an adequate environment, the results could be inaccurate and the evidence might not be usable in court.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

This test is performed to judge your ability to follow instructions and movement. As the officer performs the test, he or she will be looking for sudden jerks or twitches of your eyes – Nystagmus movements.

You will be asked to follow the officer's pen, light, or finger from side-to-side.

This test can result in inaccurate results for several reasons – medications that you take each day, ear infections, dust, wind, passing cars, and even a past head trauma can cause your eyes to twitch during this test.

If you've been charged with a DUI and these tests were used to build a case against you, talk with a DUI lawyer like Robert A Murray immediately. Those tests could actually work in your favor if they weren't completed properly.