Posted by on Apr 25, 2013 in Drunk Driving | 0 comments

Field Sobriety Tests for Drunk Driving

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are normally conducted when a police officer suspects a driver of driving under the influence of alcohol during a routine stop. A police officer may also stop a driver for probable cause such as:

  • Excessively wide turns
  • Drifting across lanes or straddling lanes
  • Near-collisions
  • Weaving or swerving in traffic
  • Driving on the shoulder or median strip
  • Speeds of lower than 10 mph
  • Stopping or braking abruptly for no reason
  • Tailgating
  • Counter flowing
  • Inconsistent signaling
  • Illegal or abrupt turns
  • No headlights during night driving
  • Rapid acceleration or deceleration

These constitute probable cause for stopping a driver. If the driver smells of alcohol, has slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, difficulty responding to simple questions, or actually has alcohol in the vehicle, the officer may ask the driver to step out of the car to conduct an FST.

There are different kinds of FSTs. Standard FSTs include:

  • one-leg stand
  • walk and turn
  • horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test

Other non-standardized FSTs may also be conducted, such as:

  • Counting backwards
  • Reciting the alphabet
  • Standing with feet together, arms raised to the sides and tipping the head back (Rhomberg stationary balance test)
  • Touching finger to nose with eyes closed

If the FSTs conducted are positive for drunk driving, the police officer may proceed to ask the driver to take a chemical test such as a breathalyzer test to measure blood alcohol content (BAC). A BAC result of .08 or higher is considered over the legal limit, and the driver may be charged with drunk driving. Other tests include blood and urine testing, which is normally done at a detention center or hospital.

Standardized FSTs are conducted as the initial test for drunk driving, and the results are usually enough for the arrest of the driver for drunk driving. However, the validity of these tests can be challenged because even sober people sometimes have difficulty performing them. If you are arrested for drunk driving on the basis of FST results, consult a lawyer immediately.

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