Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

How do Cheshire police officers determine if someone is driving under the influence of alcohol? One method that they use is the standardized field sobriety tests. This is a series of three tests designed to determine if a person is intoxicated by alcohol. However, there is a significant margin for error with these tests. Learn more here.


In Cheshire, Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) are used to discern if a person is driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated. The three kinds of tests grouped together as standardized field sobriety tests throughout the United States are the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test. These tests do not need to be taken when requested by a police officer, and the person is entirely within their rights to politely decline. Declining to take the tests can be beneficial since the tests are designed to make you fail. However, if you do take the tests, learn more about what to do next here.

About the Tests

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is often thought to be the most accurate of the standardized field sobriety tests, and is much more simple in administering than the name would suggest. To perform this test, the officer will ask the person to affix their eyes on a small object, typically a pen, and will instruct the person to follow the object with only their eyes, as they move it from side to side.

This test works on the basis that people’s eyes, when sober, can move swiftly from side to side, but when intoxicated, their eyes will jitter and otherwise deviate from the smooth natural path. Further, the officer is checking to see if the person is capable of following directions, and if they are only moving their eyes with the object, not their head.

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The walk-and-turn test is a SFST that is also a divided attention test and is performed by the officer instructing the person to walk in a straight line, on a level surface, in a certain manner, for a certain distance. Most typically, the person is asked to walk heel to toe while counting to a specific number, in a specific fashion, often “1-1 thousand, 2-1 thousand” and so forth. The officer is watching to see that the person is physically capable of doing the task of walking in a straight line while maintaining their balance and that they can also focus enough on the counting to do that accurately.

The one-leg stand test is another divided attention test. In this test, the officer will instruct the person to stand on one leg, with the other foot off the ground, typically six inches or so, and whilst doing so, count to a specific number in a specified manner, usually “1-1 thousand, 2-1 thousand” and so forth. The officer is watching to see if the person is physically capable of standing on one leg without falling over or needing to put their other foot down, and to see if they are capable of counting correctly while doing so.

Protecting Your Rights

In Cheshire, the police use these tactics, but the tests are not without fault, and the physical and mental history of a person may have a disparate impact on the results. DUIs have serious penalties associated with them, and these penalties can greatly affect a person’s life. If you have been arrested for DUI, you should have adequate representation to best ensure that the best results for you are realized. To speak with a DUI defense lawyer, contact Lady DUI today.

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