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Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

There are three standardized field sobriety tests utilized by police to determine if a person is driving under the influence of alcohol - the one leg stand test, the walk and turn test, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. We detail these tests on this page and provide more information on defending against "failed" tests.


Milford police officers use Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) to test a driver’s ability to focus on directions and have coordination and balance, which are said to be accurate and objective ways of determining whether a driver is impaired. The police can use the results of failed SFSTs to support a DUI arrest. These SFSTs include: the (1) Horizontal gaze nystagmus, (2) Walk-and-turn test, and (3) One-leg stand test. You can learn more about these tests and what they entail on this page.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs)

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is a complicated term for testing involuntary jerking of the eyes. Oftentimes, a person is not even aware of the jerking of their eyes and cannot control whether it happens or not. The theory behind this test is that jerking eye movements becomes noticeable when a person is impaired by alcohol. For this test, an officer will hold something out, such as a pen, and move the pen from side-to-side. They will watch the person’s eyes and whether they move smoothly or jerk as they follow the object.

Because this test’s accuracy depends on the subtle movements of the eyes, factors such as wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses or having a concussion or brain injury could affect the accuracy. These factors could potentially be used as defenses if a police officer claims that you failed a horizontal gaze nystagmus test.

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The walk-and-turn test, unlike the nystagmus test, tests a person’s ability to focus on their physical movements while following specific instructions. For a walk-and-turn test, the officer will direct the driver to take nine heel-to-toe steps across an imaginary straight line and count the steps as they walk. Any deviation from the specific instruction could result in a failed test result.

The officer will also look for several indicators of intoxication. These factors include not touching heel to toe, starting too soon, stopping at any point while walking, stepping off of the imaginary straight line, taking the wrong number of steps, losing balance, and using arms for balance. All of these mistakes are indicators to the officer that the person may be impaired and could result in a failed test.

Finally, the one-leg stand test requires the driver to stand on one leg and hold the other leg off the ground (about six inches in the air) for thirty seconds. During this test, the driver must keep their arms to the side, keep their eyes on the elevated foot, and count out loud to 30. Some indicators that the officer will look at for this test include swaying, using the arms for balance, hopping, and putting their foot down.

Facing a Milford DUI

Milford is a city known for frequent Connecticut traveling, and the police department has made many DUI arrests and performs DUI checkpoint stops in the area. Frequent Milford travelers and residents should be aware of Milford police notifications of where and when DUI checkpoints will occur. If you have been arrested for a DUI in Milford, Lady DUI can help assist you in your case and answer any questions that you may have about SFSTs.

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