If the police pull you over during a traffic stop under the suspicion of drunk driving, they may have you do a field sobriety test.
You want to be aware of your rights when asked to do a field sobriety test – because these are not the same as the chemical tests that drivers are sometimes required to take under certain circumstances.
What is a field sobriety test?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration created field sobriety tests to help officers determine if drivers were drunk. These tests work as followed:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: This has the driver focusing on an object, such as a finger or penlight. They’ll be asked to move their eyes while keeping their head still. The officer conducting the test will likely look for eye-jerking movements to indicate intoxication.
- Walk-and-turn test: The driver may have to walk toe-to-heal in a straight line, nice paces out. Then they’ll return to where they started. If they lose their balance, take too many or too few steps or otherwise fail to follow instructions, then they may be inebriated.
- One-legged stand test: The officer may ask the driver to lift one foot six inches off the ground and stay like that for half a minute. If the driver puts their foot down, hops or loses balance, the officer may suspect them as drunk.
- Non-standard field sobriety tests: Any other tests that aren’t listed above are considered non-standard. It could involve things like reciting the alphabet backward or counting by three, for example.
While these tests are standard practice, they aren’t always accurate. People who have disabilities, are fatigued or have drank coffee may have the same results as a drunk driver.
Can you refuse a field sobriety test?
Yes. You can refuse a field sobriety test without facing penalties such as license suspension, fines or incarceration. However, you may be asked or arrested for further testing by refusing a field sobriety test. If this happens, it benefits you to be aware of your legal rights.