What Happens During a Field Sobriety Test?
Posted in DUI on December 11, 2018
Many times when a person is pulled over and the officer is trying to determine whether a motorist is under the influence of alcohol or drugs the officer will conduct field sobriety tests. Although there are three standardized field sobriety tests that are part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration manual (NHTSA Manual), there are others tests that are used.
Types of Field Sobriety Tests
From the moment a motorist is pulled over, an officer is trained to start conducting tests. These tests start as soon as the officer makes contact with the motorist.
Standardized NHTSA Field Sobriety Tests
There are three standardized field sobriety tests that are approved by NHSTA:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
- The officer asks the person to hold his or her head still and follow a pen or light with just his or her eyes. The officer is looking to see whether the motorist can follow specific directions and also looking for horizontal nystagmus at a certain degree. Nystagmus is defined as the rapid involuntary movement of the eye.
- Walk and turn test.
- The officer instructs the motorist to wait an listen to directions and not start until told to do so. At that point, the motorist is instructed to take a series of nine steps heel to toe and then complete a specific turn and take nine heel to toe steps back. The officer is looking to see whether the motorist can do the test correctly and whether directions are followed.
- One-legged stand test.
- The officer asks the person to raise one foot slightly off the ground and count to a specific number. The motorist is told not to place his or her foot down, cannot use arms and cannot hop. The officer is looking to see whether the motorist can complete the test and follow all directions.
Each of these standardized field sobriety tests has exact guidelines that must be followed by the officer. Any variation can provide unreliable results.
Other Field Sobriety Tests
Even though they are not standardized, other field sobriety tests are often used by an officer. Other field sobriety tests may include:
- Saying the alphabet from one letter to another letter.
- The officer will ask the motorist to say, the alphabet from one letter. For example G, to another letter, Q
- The motorist is asked not to sing the alphabet only to speak the alphabet.
- The officer is looking for the motorist to start and end at the correct letter.
- Counting backward.
- The officer will ask the motorist to count backward from one number to another number. For example, from 90 to 72.
- The officer is looking for the correct backward sequence and also that the motorist starts and stops at the correct spot.
- Touching finger to thumb.
- The officer will ask the motorist to count while also touching her or her finger to thumb.
- The officer is looking at whether the motorist is able to do two things at once and also whether he or she is able to touch his or her finger to thumb.
How an Attorney Can Help
A seasoned Rhode Island DUI attorney can help after an arrest for a drunk driving or drugged driving. The Law Offices of Stefanie A. Murphy knows field sobriety guidelines and will fight to get these tests suppressed. Attorney Stefanie Murphy has handled hundreds of DUI cases and will fight to keep out evidence that hurts the case.