By: Guest Author, Kevin Crowley
Field Sobriety Tests To Expect When Cops Pull You Over
When a police officer asks you to pull over and step out of your car on suspicion of drunk driving, he will likely ask you to perform field sobriety tests to determine if you are indeed intoxicated. Field sobriety testing, after all, is one of the primary tools that law enforcement uses to decide whether or not to book you for a DUI.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
There are three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) that the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) endorses and law enforcement readily implements. They are the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), walk-and-turn (WAT) and one-leg stand (OLS).
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
This SFST is regularly featured in movie and TV scenes that show police pulling a car over, taking out a penlight and shining it into the eyes of the driver and asking him or her to follow the light.
The actual test typically uses a small object which the driver has to follow with his or her eyes as the officer moves it from side to side. Cops do it to see how the driver’s eyes jerk when it gazes to the side. The whole exercise revolves around the fact that the eye’s involuntary jerking or nystagmus becomes more exaggerated if the driver is intoxicated by alcohol.
Walk and Turn
This test works under the assumption that people who are not impaired by alcohol can easily complete tasks even when their attention is divided. Drivers are made to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn on one foot, and repeat the previous steps but in the opposite direction.
This test requires a driver to stand on one leg with one foot about six inches off the ground for 30 seconds. The police officer will take hopping, swaying, using arms to balance, or putting the foot down before the 30 seconds are up as indicators that the driver is impaired by alcohol.
Law enforcement also administers field sobriety tests other than the three SFSTs above. Check out the infographic below to see more field sobriety tests.
Kevin Crowley is an experienced DUI lawyer at Lane, Hupp & Crowley PLC, a team of criminal defense lawyers in Phoenix, Arizona. He enjoys writing about law and helping his clients handle their legal needs.