Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

When trying to determine if someone is driving under the influence of alcohol, the police may employ the walk and turn test, the one leg stand test, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Together, these tests comprise the standardized field sobriety testes. Whether you did or did not take these tests upon request, learn what happens next here.


Police officers use Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) throughout the country to assess a driver’s ability to focus and follow directions, use coordination, and balance. These results are used by the police officer as the basis for an arrest here in Connecticut as well as in other states. It is important to note that one can always decline to take the SFSTs, and oftentimes, this is in your best interest. This is because the standardized field sobriety tests are designed to make you fail. Typically three tests are administered, those being, the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand test, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. You can learn more about these tests on this page.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests Description

The walk and turn test is one of the standardized field sobriety tests and is also considered a divided attention test. This test typically involves the police officer telling the person to walk a specified number of steps in a specified manner. Typically it is a straight line on a level surface, and the person is instructed to walk heel to toe, while counting 1-1 thousand, 2 -1 thousand, and so forth.

The officer is watching to see if the person is physically able to do so without falling off course or needing their arms for balance, and if they are capable of counting the numbers correctly. Slipping, swaying, using arms for balance, and miscounting are all factors that could make a person fail the walk-and-turn test.

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The one-leg stand test is another of the standardized field sobriety tests that is also a divided attention test and works similarly, but instead of walking in a straight line, the person merely stands on one leg, with instructions to keep the other leg six inches or so off the ground. The officer again watches to see if the counting is done correctly and if the person is capable of standing on one leg without putting the other foot down or needing their arms or something else for balance. Any issues with balance or counting will be scored against the person taking the test.

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test, often thought to be the most accurate in determining intoxication, sounds more complicated than it is. In this test, the officer instructs the person to focus their eyes on a small object, typically a pen, as they move it side to side. Intoxication interferes with one’s ability to swiftly move their eyes from side to side. Instead, the person’s eyes will occasionally stutter or otherwise slightly deviate. This jerking of the eye is considered an indication of intoxication.

Getting Help

All of these tests have flaws, and a person’s specific medical and physical history can greatly impact the results. If you have been arrested for DUI and you took part in a field sobriety test, an attorney is best suited to represent you to establish a defense against these test results. To speak with a New Haven DUI defense attorney, contact Lady DUI today.

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