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What tests do police officers use to measure sobriety?

On Behalf of | Jul 25, 2022 | DUI

Having a casual evening with some drinks, drinking one too many or pulling over for a routine traffic stop can lead to a police officer stopping you and asking you what your beverage of choice was that night. If you’ve found or find yourself in a situation where you must prove you are okay to drive, it can be helpful to know how field sobriety tests work.

Types of sobriety tests

There are three main tests that police officers often administer at a DUI stop to see if a driver shows any signs that they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These tests include:

  • Walk-and-turn: This test involves taking nine heel-to-toe steps, turning around and taking nine heel-to-toe steps back the same way.
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus: Through this test, a police officer will use a pen or a flashlight and ask a driver to follow the object with their eyes as they move it.
  • One-leg stand: The one-leg stand is essentially what it sounds like; an officer will ask a driver to stand on one leg for 30 seconds and count simultaneously.

The police officer will spot and note any signs of impairment in all these tests. Some examples include not following directions correctly, being off-balance, flailing arms or legs, jerking of the eyes and inability to follow a moving object with one’s eyes.

Accuracy of sobriety tests

If you are looking to lower penalties or fight off your charge entirely, it might be worth noting that there are some ways these standard tests can fail. The environment of a dark evening, traffic zipping by or uneven pavement can make remaining focused or balanced difficult. Physical limitations and health conditions can make passing these tests tricky too.

Since the details of your case are unique, it’s important to discuss them with an attorney that will see your case through from start to end.