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What should you know about field sobriety tests?

If officers pull you over for suspected OUI, they likely will ask you to take a field sobriety test. You may wish to refuse, however. Why? Because this test, which actually consists of three separate tests, does not always produce accurate results.

DUI Justice Link explains that many things can influence your performance on a field sobriety test, including the following:

  • How much you weigh
  • How old you are
  • Any medical problems you have and the medications you take for them
  • Improper instructions on the part of the officer
  • Improper observations on the part of the officer

Field sobriety test components

The three components of a field sobriety test have the following names:

  1. Horizontal gaze nystagmus test
  2. Walk-and-turn test
  3. One-legged stand test

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test has to do with the way your eyes move after drinking or taking drugs. Theoretically, if you are drunk or under the influence of drugs, your eyes will “jump around” when the officer tells you to track his or her flashlight, pen, etc. with your eyes without moving your head while (s)he slowly waves the object horizontally in front of your face.

The walk-and-turn test has to do with your balance. The officer will instruct you to walk toe-to-heel in a straight line for nine steps, then turn around and come back, also toe-to-heel. Theoretically, if you are drunk or under the influence of drugs, you will not be able to complete this test without losing your balance.

The one-legged stand test likewise has to do with your balance. The officer will instruct you to stand on one foot while raising the other one approximately six inches off the ground. (S)he will expect you to stand this way for 30 seconds or so. Theoretically, if you are drunk or under the influence of drugs, you will not be able to complete this test without hopping, putting your raised foot down or using your arms for balance.

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