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Are field sobriety test results a true indication of inebriation?

On Behalf of | Sep 14, 2020 | DWI Defense |

The answer to this question is a resounding NO. The Standard Field Sobriety Test that law enforcement officers ask you to take when they pull you over for suspected drunk driving actually consists of three separate exercises that test your eye movements and your ability to balance. Theoretically, if you fail any of these tests, it indicates inebriation. Unfortunately, however, you can fail all three tests even when you have consumed no alcoholic beverages whatsoever.

As the American Automobile Association’s DUI Justice Link website page explains, numerous factors can affect your SFST performances, including the following:

  • How old you are
  • How much you weigh
  • Whether you have a disability that makes it difficult for you to walk or balance
  • Whether you have an inner ear problem resulting in poor balance
  • Whether the officer properly instructs you
  • Whether he or she properly observes you and properly interprets your results

Horizontal gaze nystagmus test

This test requires you to stand without moving your head. The officer slowly waves a pencil, flashlight, etc. back and forth in front of your face, and you must follow its movement with your eyes only. If your eyes jerk instead of smoothly moving back and forth, you fail the test.

Walk-and-turn test

This test requires you to walk nine steps forward heel-to-toe, turn around and walk nine steps back to where you started from, again heel-to-toe. If you weave or lose your balance, you fail the test.

One-legged stand test

This test requires you to stand on one foot for 30 seconds while holding your other foot up about six inches. If you put your second foot down on the ground or waive your arms to maintain your balance, you fail the test.