When the police pull you over for suspicion of intoxicated driving, it’s helpful to have an idea of procedure. The purpose of the stop is for law enforcement officers to administer tests that will determine if you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

There are three field sobriety tests that are legally accepted in determining whether or not you are intoxicated. These tests are the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk and turn, and the one-leg stand. They are designed to test your abilities with balance, coordination, attention, and multitasking.

If you have been pulled over for DUI and administered a field sobriety test, you likely want to know where to go from here. When you are faced with charges of driving under the influence, the DUI lawyers at Confianza Legal have the decades of experience needed to guide you on how to have your charges reduced or dropped.

Reach out to us for a free consultation and continue reading to learn everything you need to know about field sobriety tests and their role in the judicial process.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN)

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN) assesses your ability to control your eye movement. The way the test works is an officer will have you face away from lights so that they can accurately determine the movement of your eyes. The officer will indicate an object, usually a pen, that they will drag over your line of vision, about 12 inches away from your face, and which you have to follow in a straight line.

If you are under the influence of alcohol or certain prescription drugs, your eyes will register an involuntary response. At the furthest edge of your vision, the eyes tend to jerk perceptibly. For an intoxicated person, the onset of this tell-tale jerk occurs at lesser angles and is more aggravated, so officers will be looking for an eye response that occurs at 45 degrees from the center and beyond.

Officers will be watching for this jerking, as well as your ability to follow the object fluidly. If you are intoxicated, there is no way for you to resist this jerk of the eyes, as it’s entirely involuntary.

Walk And Turn Test (WAT)

Sometimes referred to as the “nine step test” or the “straight line test,” the walk and turn test (WAT) assesses your coordination. Here is how it’s administered: an officer will ask you to walk nine steps in a straight line, heel to toe. Then, you will turn around on your heel and walk back the same way. As you perform this test, law enforcement will be looking out for seven key signs of intoxication:

  1. You begin the test before the instructions begin
  2. You cannot keep your balance while you are listening to instructions
  3. You stop to retain your balance while walking
  4. You cannot walk heel to toe
  5. You use your arms to balance
  6. You lose balance while you turn
  7. You take an incorrect number of steps

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, if you exhibit two or more signs of intoxication, there is a 79% chance that you have a blood alcohol content level (BAC) of 0.08 or above.

One-Leg Stand Test (OLS)

The one-leg stand test also assesses your balance and coordination. An officer instructs you to stand on one leg with your other leg held six inches off the ground, usually for about 30 seconds, as you count backward from 1000. You will also have to keep your arms straight and your eyes on your raised leg. As you perform the test, law enforcement will observe you for four key signs of intoxication, including:

  1. You sway while balancing
  2. You use your arms for balance
  3. You hop to maintain balance
  4. You put your foot down

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, if you exhibit two or more of these signs of intoxication, there is an 83% likelihood that you have a BAC of 0.08 or higher.

Refusing A Field Sobriety Test

It is within your right to refuse to take a field sobriety test, though you can still be arrested and taken in for further testing. It’s important to keep in mind the difference between field sobriety tests and chemical tests, which are more invasive and include blood, saliva, and urine tests. If you refuse a field sobriety test, though you can still be arrested, you will not be subject to additional penalties for refusing.

Chemical tests are a different story. When you get behind the wheel of a car, you have implicitly agreed to undergo chemical testing for intoxicated driving in the event that you are lawfully arrested. This understanding is known as implied consent, and refusing to undergo chemical testing in these circumstances will have consequences such as license suspension, fines, and additional penalties should you ultimately be found guilty.

Though it will not count against you to refuse field sobriety tests, foregoing chemical tests might make a court more inclined to find you guilty.

Do Field Sobriety Tests Stand Up In Court?

Field sobriety tests are admissible in court. However, field sobriety tests are not 100% accurate and don’t stand up to rigorous scrutiny. There are certain medical conditions that can cause you to fail a FST, though an officer should screen you for those before beginning testing. If the prosecution admits the results of a field sobriety test against you in court, your lawyer might use several arguments to dispel their legitimacy, such as:

  • Your medical condition
  • Environmental factors like slick roads or poor weather
  • Factors like clothing that make it harder to balance (ex. High heel shoes)
  • Officer instructions were confusing or not properly administered
  • Your nerves got the best of you
  • Bias on the part of the officer or lack of impartial third-party verification
  • You were confused because of a language barrier

Field sobriety tests are more subjective than chemical testing, so a fail on a field sobriety test is not the end of your case. Discuss the factors of your arrest with a trusted DUI lawyer such as the ones at Confianza Legal, who will be able to determine an effective line of defense.

Confianza Legal Will Fight For Your Rights

At Confianza Legal, our DUI lawyers have over two decades of experience having charges reduced or dismissed. We understand the role of field sobriety tests in the judicial process and know how to fight against them and other challenges that threaten your rights. Reach out to schedule a free consultation and learn how we can present an aggressive defense in your case.