Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

There are three standardized field sobriety tests that supposedly indicate if a person is driving under the influence of alcohol. However, a lot can go wrong with these tests and there is a margin for error. Here, learn more about these tests, how they are administered, and the common errors that could occur with them.


The field sobriety tests used in Connecticut and throughout the United States, known as Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs), are used as a basis for probable cause for a DUI arrest. These tests typically encompass three different tests that have been approved and agreed upon throughout the country as being good indications of impairment. These tests are the one-leg stand test, the walk-and-turn test, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. However, there are significant issues with these tests, and they are designed to make you fail. Learn more about these tests in East Lyme and defending yourself against them here.

The Three Tests You May Be Asked to Take

The first of the standardized field sobriety tests is the one-leg stand test, which is a divided attention test. This examination tests the physical as well as mental state of the person by the officer requesting the person to stand on one leg, with the other raised a certain height off the ground while counting to a specified number in a specified manner. The officer is observing for the person to lose balance or otherwise fail to follow the instructions. Issues such as swaying, falling over, failing to count properly, etc. can result in a failed test.

The walk-and-turn test is also a divided attention test and similar in its function. The walk-and-turn test is where an officer instructs the person to walk a straight line on a level surface for a designated number of steps in a designated manner. This is typically done heel to toe while counting 1-1 thousand, 2-1 thousand, and so forth. Again, any issues with balance or counting can be marked against you.

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But, there are other reasons why you may have trouble with this test that do not have to do with intoxication. For example, you may be wearing improper clothing such as heels which could make walking more difficult, you may be asked to take the test on an unsuitable surface or in unsuitable weather conditions, or you may simply be nervous. A good DUI defense lawyer will consider these factors in your defense.

The final test that you will be asked to take is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, wherein the officer will instruct the person to follow a small object, typically a pen, as the officer moves the object from side to side. The officer will tell the person to use only their eyes and not move their head. This test is believed to be the most accurate of the standardized field sobriety tests because it is a physical compulsion. When sober, a person’s eyes can move swiftly from side to side, but when intoxicated, the person’s eyes will stutter and ever so slightly deviate from course. This is an involuntary action.

Getting Help

These tests all have their faults, and a person’s physical make up, medical history, as well as other factors may play a role in if the person fails or passes in the officer’s eyes. For any encounter with the criminal justice system, an East Lyme DUI defense lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected and that you are not unfairly prosecuted. To speak with an attorney, contact Lady DUI today.

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