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What is a field sobriety test?

Has your designated driver ever decided to join the party and leave you holding the bag after you have had a few drinks yourself? Whether you live here in Arkansas or across the country, it is not an uncommon occurrence. With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, you can bet it happens to at least a few revelers in the next few weeks. If it happens to you, think twice about your ability to drive, even if you stop drinking early so you can ensure friends get home after the party.

St. Patrick’s Day is one holiday sure to see police throughout the country set up sobriety checkpoints, and FindLaw notes that a field sobriety test is typically used to determine whether a driver is impaired. If you are waved over and police suspect you may have been drinking, you could be asked to take such a test. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sanctions the Standardized Field Sobriety Test, which consists of three parts:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: Alcohol exaggerates the eye’s involuntary jerking when you look to the side. You may be asked to follow an object with your eyes, which officers will watch closely for twitches.
  • Walk and Turn: Walking heel-to-toe down a line, turning and walking back the same way is what you are asked to do in this test. It measures your ability to perform tasks while your attention is divided.
  • One-Leg Stand: With this test, you hold one foot some six inches in the air for 30 seconds. An impaired person may hop, touch the ground, or sway with their body or arms. If you fail these tests, police are likely to ask you to take a Breathalyzer to test your blood alcohol concentration.

Police officers use field sobriety tests to determine your ability to focus, balance and more, recording their observations for possible use as legal evidence. These field tests serve as probable cause for police to arrest DUI drivers. Although the accuracy of the tests typically falls in the 90th percentile, there is some room for doubt, especially if the test is improperly given. If you are arrested on suspicion of DUI, contact an attorney with expertise in defending drivers in these circumstances.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice.

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