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Can I challenge a field sobriety test?

Field sobriety tests may be an important component of drunk driving charges. For this reason, accused drivers should be familiar with the different types of field sobriety tests and how they may challenge them if needed.

What are the different types of field sobriety tests?

There are three field sobriety tests that drivers pulled over for suspected drunk driving are asked to take.

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: Nystagmus, or involuntary jerking of the eye, occurs when the eye glances to the side and is exaggerated when a driver is impaired by alcohol. Police officers conducting the horizontal gaze nystagmus test look for an inability to follow a moving object smoothly, distinct eye jerking when the eye is at maximum deviation and eye-jerking that occurs within 45 degrees of the center of the eye.
  • Walk and Turn Test: The walk and turn test evaluates the accused driver’s ability to complete tasks while their attention is divided. The accused driver is required to take nine steps, heel to toe, along a straight line and then to turn one foot and return in the opposite direction in the same manner.
  • One-Leg Stand Test: The one-leg stand test requires the accused diver to stand with one foot 6 inches above the ground for 30 seconds. If the accused driver sways while trying to balance, uses their arms to balance, hops or puts one foot down during the test, it may indicate impairment.

Can I challenge a field sobriety test?

All three types of field sobriety tests, taken as a whole, accurately indicate alcohol impairment in 91% of cases and in 94% of cases if explanations for false positives are accepted. Field sobriety tests are not infallible. Police officers conducting them must do so in accordance with their training and must receive appropriate training to conduct them.

There are a variety of criminal defense options for accused drivers facing drunk driving charges. As a result, accused drivers should know when and how they may be able to challenge a field sobriety test that led to their drunk driving charges.