Criminal Attorneys Aren't Just for Criminals

What To Know About Roadside Sobriety Testing

by Eva Holmes

Roadside testing of drivers is supposed to make our roads safer, but these tests may be problematic. If you or a loved one has been arrested based on one or more field sobriety tests, you should seek legal help from a criminal law attorney. An arrest is not a conviction, and you will need expert help on your side to prove that an aspect of the stop and all tests performed were not done so properly. Read on to learn more about these tests.

The Three Main Field Sobriety Tests

Law enforcement has a variety of options at their disposal when evaluating a driver for being under the influence (DUI). The three tests below have been in heavy rotation for a long time and are quite familiar to almost everyone.

Walk and Turn

This test involves a suspect performing a walk of a few feet while counting out loud. The suspect is told to walk by placing their heel in front of the toes of the opposite foot, which gives the subject the appearance of walking on a tightrope (if performed correctly). They must take a certain number of steps forward along an imaginary (or actual) line, spin around, and return to the starting point in the same heel-to-toe manner. This is a test of balance, equilibrium, and following directions. The spin-turn in the middle, for example, can be enough to bring people who are impaired off-balance and have their heads spinning. Unfortunately, this test works best on those who don't already have balance issues from neurological issues. Additionally, the instructions may not be clear to those who don't speak English well or that have hip or lower extremity flexibility and mobility issues.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

This test has the subject attempting to follow an object held by a law enforcement officer using only their eyes and not their heads. This test can be challenging for officers to interpret, particularly in certain conditions like low light or when flashing lights are present. As the officer observes the movement of the eye back and forth and up and down, they are observing the points at which jerky eye movements occur. Alcohol use can be detected in those jerky movements. Unfortunately, those who wear contacts or who have certain eye disorders show some of the same signs of impairment that those under the influence might.

One-Legged Stand

This test appears simple, but it can be extremely difficult for those who've been drinking to perform. The subject is told to stand with one leg extended in front of them and count by "hundreds" until told to stop. While it can send those with impairments off-balance and struggling to remain standing, it can cause the same problems in those who have balance issues or leg or feet medical issues. For example, something as widespread as arthritis (a deterioration of the joints) can make it impossible to stand on one foot at all.

Contact a defense attorney for representation if you have been arrested for a driving under the influence charge.