Law enforcement officers commonly use field sobriety tests to determine if a driver is impaired due to alcohol or drugs. These tests assess a person’s physical and cognitive abilities and can play a critical role in impaired driving cases.
Understanding the two main categories of standardized and non-standardized tests can provide insight into how these tests are conducted and their legal implications. Ideally, all drivers will know about these tests so they can make informed decisions about how to handle an officer’s request to conduct a field sobriety test.
What you need to know about standardized field sobriety tests
Standardized field sobriety tests are three tests that have been scientifically validated and approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand. Officers are trained to administer these tests uniformly, and the results can be used as evidence in court.
Understanding non-standardized field sobriety tests
Non-standardized field sobriety tests are less formal and aren’t subject to the same scientific validation as standardized tests. These may include tasks such as reciting the alphabet, counting backward or touching the tip of the nose with a finger.
In many cases, the results of a field sobriety test may determine whether the officer asks you to take a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol concentration.
Anyone who’s pulled over for the suspicion of impaired driving may be asked to participate in a field sobriety test. Understanding the specifics of these tests and how the results might be used are useful when creating a defense strategy to combat the criminal charges.