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The Truth About Field Sobriety Tests

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You’re probably familiar with what a field sobriety test supposedly looks like thanks to movies and television, but do you know what to actually expect if you’re pulled over on the suspicion of DUI/DWI? Read on to find out.

What Are Field Sobriety Tests?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approves three tests used to determine sobriety: the Horizontal Gaze NystagmusWalk and Turn, and One Leg Stand tests. These tests are designed to divide a person’s attention based on the assumption that a sober person can multitask relatively well while an intoxicated person cannot.

What Do Field Sobriety Tests Consist Of?

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus – The officer asks the driver to follow a pen or a finger with only their eyes, starting from the driver’s nose, and extending to the peripheral vision on both sides. Jerking or trembling of the eye or any motion that is less than smooth can provide evidence of intoxication.

Walk and Turn – The officer asks the driver to walk – right foot in front of left, with their arms at their sides – taking nine steps in a straight line, heel to toe and counting each step out loud. Finishing these nine steps, the officer asks the driver to slowly turn around to their left and to return using the same procedure. Inability to balance without help from arms, trouble walking in a straight line, or inability to touch heel to toe can all serve as evidence of intoxication.

One Leg Stand – The officer asks the driver to stand with heels together and feet spread at 45 degrees with hands at their side. The officer then asks the driver to raise one leg six inches off the ground, with the driver’s toes pointed outward. The officer looks for swaying, imbalance, muscle tremors, or other signals of intoxication.

What Happens if I Fail a Field Sobriety Test?

You won’t receive a true grade for field sobriety tests, so there’s no real way to fail (or pass). The field sobriety tests are simply used to help an officer determine whether or not you may be intoxicated. If he or she does come to believe that you are intoxicated, you can be arrested for DUI/DWI.

Are Field Sobriety Tests Reliable?

The problem with field sobriety tests is that they are completely subjective, and the NHTSA has conducted studies that reveal huge error rates, especially when the tests aren’t conducted according to proper protocol. There’s also the confounding affects of physical impairments, poor lighting, weather issues or difficult footwear.

Do I Have to Take Field Sobriety Tests?

You are not required by law to submit to field sobriety tests, but it’s very important to be polite when you refuse. It’s always a good idea to say as little as possible in these situations so that there’s nothing in what you say to incriminate you or make you memorable to an officer.

Even though you don’t have to submit to field sobriety tests, it’s important to remember that both Missouri and Kansas are implied consent states, meaning that, when you accept your driver’s license, you consent to undergoing a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test if asked by an officer. Refusal of either of those tests will get you an immediate one-year suspension of your license.

When Should I Call a Lawyer?

If you’re arrested for DUI/DWI, you should request to call a lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced DUI/DWI attorney like ours at Grover Law can help you successfully fight a DUI/DWI charge. If you have further questions or are in need of a DUI/DWI attorney, give us a call, or visit our website for more information.