Standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) are a series of three tests that police officers use in Hartford and throughout Connecticut to assess a driver’s balance and coordination to determine if the driver is impaired. To establish the basis for a DUI arrest, the officer will often administer these three tests, which focus on three elements: objectivity, standardization, and behavior sampling. These three SFSTs are the (1) Horizontal gaze nystagmus, (2) Walk-and-turn test, and (3) One-leg stand test.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
The horizontal gaze nystagmus test essentially looks for involuntary jerking movements in the eyes, which the test subject is often unaware is even occurring. An officer administering this test needs to hold something like a small pen in front of the person’s face and direct the person to follow the pen with only their eyes as the officer moves the pen slowly from side to side. Some factors that may interfere with the accuracy of this test include eyeglasses, contact lenses, and issues such as color blindness and traumatic brain injuries.
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The second of the three standardized field sobriety tests is the walk-and-turn test and the driver’s attention is divided between the physical walking and mental task of following specific directions. The test requires a hard, dry, level, non-slip surface, with sufficient room for the driver to complete nine heel-to-toe steps. Before the driver begins this test, the officer gives the driver instructions and must confirm that the driver understands.
Unfortunately, there are many opportunities for mistakes to be made during this test, including starting too soon, stopping at any point while walking, not touching heel to toe, stepping off of the imaginary straight line, losing balance, taking the wrong number of steps, and using arms for balance. These mistakes are all clues that the officer looks for during the performance of this test.
One-Leg Stand Test
Lastly, the one-leg stand test is similar to the walk-and-turn in that it is a divided attention test. The officer directs the driver to stand on one leg and hold the other leg up with their foot about six inches from the ground. While standing, the driver must keep their arms to the side, keep eyes on the elevated foot, and count out loud “one thousand, two thousand,” etc. until reaching thirty seconds. Four clues that the officer looks for are swaying while balancing, using the arms for balance, hopping, and putting the foot down.
Help With a Hartford DUI
In Hartford, residents may be subjected to DUI checkpoints, which are enforced by the police department. However, the police department is required to make a notification ahead of time and residents can check the Hartford police department’s social media pages, such as Twitter for DUI checkpoint alerts. What Hartford drivers should remember is that after being stopped by a police officer and asked to perform these sobriety tests, you do not have to take them and can politely decline to participate.