Field Sobriety Tests

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If you were recently pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), the officer probably asked you to take field sobriety tests.

There are several types of field sobriety tests that law enforcement agents use. One category of tests is known as “divided attention testing”. These tests require the driver to perform unusual physical movements while remembering a series of directions. They are known as divided attention tests because intoxicated drivers find it difficult to concentrate on mental and physical exercises at the same time.

An example of a divided attention test is the walk-and-turn test. In this test, the driver is told to take nine steps, heel to toe, in a straight line. Upon completion of the nine steps, the driver must then turn around and take nine steps in the opposite direction. The officer will look for signs of impairment, such as inability to stay balanced while listening to the directions, stopping to regain balance, using arms to balance, or taking the incorrect number of steps.

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Another common test is the one-leg stand test. In this test, the driver is told to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and must count out loud until told to put his foot back down. The officer looks for signs of intoxication, such as using arms to maintain balance, hopping to stay balanced, swaying while balancing, and putting the foot down on the ground before being told to stop.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus testing is another common test. This test measures the involuntary jerking of the eyeball that occurs normally when you look to the side. This typically occurs when your eyes are rotated at high peripheral angles. However, when a driver is intoxicated, nystagmus can be more distinct. In the horizontal nystagmus test, the law enforcement agent will ask the driver to follow a slowly moving object (such as a pen) with his eyes. The officer will look to see if the driver can smoothly follow the object with his eyes and whether the eyes begin jerking at a 45 degree angle from the center.

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