It is a police officer’s job to enforce the laws against driving under the influence. However, it can be very difficult to tell if someone has had too much to drink. The presence of alcohol on the breath is an obvious sign, but it tells the officer nothing about how many drinks the driver has had or how a drink might be affecting the driver’s abilities. To help determine whether or not someone is impaired, a number of field sobriety tests (FSTs) have been developed. If you’re pulled over on suspicion of DUI, you might be asked to perform any number of these tests.

The Three “Standardized” Tests

While there are many different tests that you might be given if you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI, you can count on undergoing the three “standardized” tests. These are tests that the NHTSA has deemed accurate enough to determine whether you’re too impaired to drive (as long as the tests are administered properly, of course).

The One-Leg Stand

In this test, you will be asked to raise one foot off the ground by about six inches. Then, you will need to count from 1001 to 1030 and look down at your foot. The signs an officer watches for during this test include swaying, using your arms for balance, putting your foot back down, and hopping. If you display two or more of these signs, there is a 68% chance your BAC is over .10.

The Walk and Turn

The walk and turn test is also called the straight line test. Essentially, you will be asked to take nine steps, heel to toe, along either an imaginary or a real line. Then, you will need to pivot and repeat the process back to where you started. During this test, the officer is looking to see if you can follow instructions and keep your balance. You will raise concern if you stop walking, if you step off the line, if you balance with your arms, if you turn incorrectly, or if you take too many or too few steps. Two or more of these signs indicate a 68% chance of a BAC beyond .10.

Horizontal Nystagmus

Most people are familiar with this test, and the assumption is that the officer is watching to see how well you’re following an object moving left to right in front of your face. However, that is not actually what the officer is testing.

Nystagmus refers to an involuntary jerking motion of the eye, and the test is designed to help highlight excessive jerking. The officer will ask you to follow an object from left to right and back while he or she watches your eyes. If nystagmus is noticed at or before a 45-degree angle, there’s a 77% chance that your BAC is above 0.10.

The officer might administer a number of other field sobriety tests, including the hand pat field sobriety test, the finger-to-nose test, the Rhomberg balance field sobriety test, and others. However, only the three detailed here are considered “standardized.”

Should You Take the Tests?

Many people wonder if they’re required to take a field sobriety test. The answer is no. You are required to take a chemical or breath test, and refusal of that test can lead to serious penalties. However, there are no additional penalties attached if you refuse FSTs. If you decide to refuse, do so politely, but be prepared to be arrested. The officer has likely already made up his or her mind about your condition.

If you have been charged with DUI, you need expert legal representation. Contact the offices of Michael J. Fremont at (760) 613-5384‬.