If you’re pulled over under the suspicion of driving under the influence, the officer may perform a field sobriety test. Along with breathalyzers, which measure a person’s blood alcohol content to determine if they’re over the legal limit, field sobriety tests look for physical markers of inebriation. In general, three tests are commonly used, and understanding how these tests are conducted can help you identify whether your rights have been violated.
One-leg standing test
Alcohol consumption impacts a person’s balance and the one-leg standing test is used to establish balance issues. This test involves standing on one leg and counting, usually starting from 1,001. You’ll be asked to perform the test for up to 30-seconds, during which time the police officer will look for problems staying upright, such as swaying or putting your foot down before the test is complete. Some physical issues can also cause you to lose your balance, so be sure to mention conditions or injuries to the officer before beginning the test.
Horizontal gaze nystagmus
Horizontal gaze nystagmus refers to an involuntary movement of the eye when looking in a certain direction, which is amplified when a person is drunk. The officer will ask you to follow an object as it’s moved side to side in front of your eyes. Along with evaluating the level of involuntary movement and whether it falls in line with what happens during inebriation, the officer will also evaluate whether you’re able to track the object smoothly.
During this test, you’ll be asked to take nine heel-to-toe steps away from the officer and back again. Loss of balance, taking the wrong number of steps, using your arms for balance, stopping, and other indicators are used to establish inebriation. If two or more of the above signs are present, it’s likely the motorist will be charged with a DUI.