If you are pulled over by a police officer in Middletown, Connecticut, you may be asked to perform Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs). These tests are a series of three tests used to assess balance, coordination, and the ability to follow directions to determine possible intoxication. An officer will use the results of these tests to establish the basis of probable cause for a DUI (driving under the influence) arrest. The three tests include the (1) Horizontal gaze nystagmus, (2) One-leg stand test, and (3) Walk and turn test.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
The first test performed is often the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which is arguably the most accurate test to determine intoxication because it assesses a bodily reaction in the eyes, which is a sign of intoxication. In this test, an officer will hold something like a small pen out in front of the person’s eyes and move the pen slowly from side to side. As the eyes follow the pen, the officer will look to see if the person’s eyes follow a smooth pursuit or if there are jerking movements in the eyes. Some factors that may affect this test are wearing eyeglasses, contact lenses, or having suffered from a concussion or other traumatic brain injury.
Next is the one-leg stand test. This test also tests the driver’s ability to perform a physical task while following specific directions given. The officer will direct the driver to stand on one leg while holding 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,” until reaching thirty seconds. Four indicators that the officer will be looking for include swaying while balancing, using the arms for balance, hopping, and putting the foot down.
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The final test performed is called the walk-and-turn, which tests the driver’s divided attention to walking and following specific directions. Officers will instruct the driver to complete nine heel-to-toe steps. For this test, it is critical that it be performed on a hard, dry, level, non-slip surface that has sufficient space for the nine steps. It is also critical that the officer confirms with the driver that the instructions were clear and understood.
The officer will look for mistakes made during the walking and turning, 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 taken as signs of physical or mental deficiencies caused by impairment.
Facing a Middletown DUI
Middletown police are no strangers to DUI arrests, and many stops have ended in DUI arrests after drivers have taken and failed the standardized field sobriety tests. If you have been stopped by Middletown police and asked to perform field sobriety tests, remember that you have the right to decline to answer questions and admit to being under the influence. You also don’t have to perform the SFSTs. If you have been arrested for a DUI in Middletown, Lady DUI may be able to assist you with your case.