Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Bridgeport law enforcement, like all law enforcement throughout Connecticut, uses standardized field sobriety tests to help them determine if a person is driving under the influence of alcohol. But the question is - are these tests accurate? We would argue not always. Learn more on this page.


Throughout the United States, there are standardized tests that police officers can administer to determine if a person is driving under the influence of alcohol. The protocol is no different in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and these tests are used when police officer is considering making a DUI arrest. These tests are called the standardized field sobriety tests and have been used throughout America for decades. But the question to consider is – how accurate are these tests, really? Law enforcement argues that these tests are scientifically based and accurate in determining if a person is intoxicated. But is this true? At Lady DUI, we have seen so many instances where the standardized field sobriety tests have not been accurate. If you took these tests and were arrested based on the results, you are not alone. However, there may be ways to call the validity of these tests into question. We discuss the tests and their accuracy here.

Three Standardized Tests

There are three standardized field sobriety tests, which, when administered together, are supposed to determine if a person is intoxicated by alcohol. These tests are the one-leg stand test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, and the walk-and-turn test. The one-leg stand test is a divided attention test in which a person is asked to stand on one foot and count to 30. The police officer is checking to see if you can keep your balance and count to 30 without forgetting what number you are on or skipping around. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test tests an involuntary jerking in a person’s eye when they are supposedly intoxicated. A police officer will have you follow an object such as a pen with your eyes only. As your eyes move, jerking in your eyes is supposed to indicate if you have consumed alcohol. The walk-and-turn test asks a person to walk in a straight line for nine heel-to-toe steps and then turn around and walk back. Swaying, loss of balance, walking the incorrect number of steps, etc. are supposed to be indications of alcohol use.

The Problem With These Tests

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As you might imagine, many problems can arise with these standardized field sobriety tests because there are a lot of factors that could cause a person to fail that have nothing to do with alcohol consumption. First, the police officer needs to understand these tests properly, give proper instruction, and score the tests properly. User error when administering and scoring the tests could cause someone to fail.

Also consider that these tests would be difficult to complete for a sober person! Factors such as being overweight, poor road conditions, uncomfortable clothing and footwear, nerves, etc. may cause a person to fail the tests. Could you stand up right now and balance on one leg for 30 seconds while remaining completely still? This is a tall order for anyone and is not necessarily an indication of alcohol use.

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is considered the most scientifically accurate of the three tests, but even this one has its problems. That is because nystagmus of the eye can be attributed to multiple issues – not just alcohol use. Jerking in the eye can be a legitimate medical condition.

Refute These Test Results

While the police may lead you to believe that standardized field sobriety tests are accurate, the truth is that these tests are designed to make people fail. The issues mentioned above and others may be legitimate concerns that you can raise in court to question to results of these tests. Your Bridgeport DUI defense lawyer can do this on your behalf. To discuss these tests and your results further, contact us.

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