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A Leading, Award-Winning Law Firm In North Carolina

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What does a field sobriety test during a traffic stop involve?

Unless you cause a crash, it is unlikely that a police officer will arrest you immediately when you start talking to them on the side of the road. Instead, if they suspect chemical impairment, they may ask you questions about whether you have had anything to drink.

Regardless of how you answer, the officer could remain suspicious and might demand that you perform a field sobriety test. You will have to exit the vehicle and perform several physical tasks that allow the officer to gauge your sobriety or inebriation.

The results of a field sobriety test can give an officer probable cause to request chemical testing. What tests will a police officer expect you to perform on the side of the road?

2 standardized field sobriety tests focus on balance and motor skills

There are three standardized field sobriety tests used around the country to gauge chemical impairment. Two of these three tests focus solely on your motor function and balance.

The walk-and-turn test involves someone moving in a straight line and then cleanly turning 180 degrees to return the way they came. In the one-leg-stand test, an individual needs to maintain their balance on one leg while counting backward. Both of these tasks are easy for the average sober individual without medical issues but difficult for someone with alcohol and or drugs in their system.

The third test looks for involuntary muscle spasms

You can control some of your bodily responses to alcohol but not all of them. A well-trained athlete, for example, might still be able to pass a walk-and-turn test while their blood alcohol concentration is far above the legal limit.

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is harder for people to trick or practice for ahead of time. An officer asks a driver to follow their finger with their eye as the officer moves their finger from side to side. When someone’s eye looks to the side, alcohol in their bloodstream could cause twitching as the eye moves.

Those who fail field sobriety tests could wind up arrested and facing impaired driving charges. Understanding how a field sobriety test works could be the first step in planning your impaired driving defense.