What are the three standardized field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2024 | Field Sobriety Tests

If a driver is ever pulled over for the suspicion of drunk driving, the officer who stops them will try to determine if they’re impaired or if there’s something else going on. They have several tools they can use to try to determine what is true.

One option that some police officers use is the standardized field sobriety test (SFST). This is a battery of three tests that are endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Components of the SFST

The SFST consists of the walk and turn, one-leg stand and horizontal gaze nystagmus. Together, these tests give the officers an indication of whether a person is impaired or not. In order to get accurate results, the officer must be trained and conduct the tests according to the established protocols.

The walk and turn requires individuals to walk nine heel-to-toe steps before turning around and returning to the starting point in the same manner. This requires divided attention, which makes it difficult for a person who’s impaired.

The one-leg stand requires the person to have one foot lifted about six inches. They have to count to 30. This requires balance, which is one skill that often decreases when a person is intoxicated. The officer will look for signs, such as using the arms to balance, to determine if the person’s balance has been negatively impacted by impairment.

The horizontal gaze nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eye that happens naturally. This is more noticeable when a person is impaired by alcohol. To determine if this indication is present, the officer has to watch the person’s eye movement for exaggerated jerkiness while the person follows an object left and right.

The SFST is evidence that’s often called into question because of the fallibility of police officers. People who are facing drunk driving charges based on this set of tests should learn about the defense options they have. Working with a legal representative who can evaluate their circumstances may help these defendants to determine how to proceed with their defense most effectively.

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