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Are Field Sobriety Tests Necessary?

Written by on June 14, 2016

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There are a number of tests that may be given to drivers if they are stopped for a possible DUI. Some of the first tests that are done are standardized field sobriety tests, or FSTs. With all of today’s increased technology, many people wonder whether field sobriety tests are actually necessary. Is there anything about these tests that makes them helpful or scientifically important? Actually, field sobriety tests have been developed over many years and are backed by scientific theories.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

There are several common FSTs used by law enforcement across the country. These include:

  • Walk and Turn – The person is requested to take a specific number of steps in one direction, turn, and come back. The instructions include walking with your feet placed heel to toe. This tests checks for balance, and for your ability to understand and follow directions.
  • Stand on One Leg – In this test, the driver is instructed to stand in one place and raise one leg up in front for , holding it there for eight seconds. The test checks to see if you are wobbly or unable to stand, as well as your ability to follow directions.
  • Nystagmus Test – Also called the horizontal gaze test, the officer shines a light in your eye while asking you to move your gaze from one side to the other. The test checks to see if the eye moves in a smooth manner. Jerking motion in the eye could be an indication of alcohol use.

Pass or Fail?

Field sobriety tests are not graded like college exams. There is no specific passing or failing grade that is assigned to a test. Although these tests are quite subjective, police officers may have some indication of whether a person “passes” or “fails” the tests. Generally speaking, the officer will administer more than one test in order to be more secure in his evaluation. Don’t be surprised, however, if the officer does not provide you with a pass or fail indication. Simply asking this of the officer could be an indication that the driver is concerned about passing and therefore could possibly be driving while intoxicated.

Taking Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are usually completed before other tests that actually measure alcohol concentration in the bloodstream. While drivers are required by law to submit to BAC testing, such as breathalyzer, blood, or urine tests, there is no such requirement for FSTs. Drivers may refuse to take these tests, however, it may not preclude officers from moving forward with other DUI testing. When officers have reason to believe that someone is DUI, they are allowed to request that testing be done. Failure to comply with requests of officers could be taken as a sign that the driver is impaired.

If you have been charged with DUI, you need a strong defense team behind you. Contact the experienced legal team at The Bellinger Law Office to schedule an initial consultation.

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