A field sobriety test is one of the ways that police officers build a case for drunk driving charges. There are certain physical abilities that diminish when people have consumed too much alcohol. There are also other secondary signs of alcohol consumption that officers can learn to detect.
An individual’s performance on a field sobriety test might give a police officer the probable cause that they require to request a breath test or move forward with arresting someone for impairment at the wheel.
There are three standardized tests
When an officer asks someone to exit their vehicle during an impairment-related traffic stop, they often follow that initial request with a series of instructions for the driver. A motorist will typically need to perform three different standardized field sobriety tests that could increase an officer’s suspicion that they are under the influence or make it clear that they are likely sober.
The first test is the walk-and-turn test. Officers ask someone to walk in a straight line, turn around, and walk back along the line. There’s also the one-leg-stand test. This involves someone standing on one leg, possibly while performing movements with their arms or minor cognitive exercises. Finally, there is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which involves someone following an officer’s finger from side to side with only their eyes. The results of these tests could contribute additional evidence to support an officer’s belief that someone has had too much to drink.
Field sobriety tests are not always accurate or admissible
Despite how much officers rely on field sobriety tests, they can easily produce misleading results. Both physical maladies and certain mental health challenges, like anxiety, can produce symptoms that seem a lot like chemical intoxication to an officer.
Additionally, administering the wrong tests or having someone perform the test at a location where there are no cameras recording might alter the admissibility of the evidence gained during a field sobriety test. As a result, those who have been charged with impaired driving primarily due to challenges with a field test should seek legal guidance accordingly.