Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Standardized field sobriety tests are oftentimes in Norwich DUI cases as evidence for arrest. However, these tests are highly subjective and oftentimes do not paint the full picture. A good Norwich DUI defense lawyer can review the results of these tests to see if they are truly accurate.


When a police officer suspects a person of driving under the influence in Norwich, they are trained to perform three roadside tests known as the standardized field sobriety tests. These tests are supposed to determine if a person is under the influence with extreme accuracy, though the accuracy of these tests is actually debatable. On this page, we will discuss what the tests consist of as well as common problems with the standardized field sobriety tests. If you “failed” these tests according to the police, fear not! There may still be ways to have the results thrown out of court.

Understanding the Three Field Sobriety Tests

As mentioned, there are three tests that are considered “standardized” throughout the state of Connecticut and the country as a whole. Administered and scored together, they are supposed to determine if a driver is under the influence.

The first of the three tests is the walk-and-turn tests. This test asks a person to walk in a straight line, turn around, and come back. An officer will look for signs of “intoxication” such as failure to walk in a straight line, failure to put one foot in front of the other in a heel-to-toe manner, failure to follow directions, etc.

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The second test is the one-leg stand test. This is a test that divides a person attention by asking them to balance on one leg while counting. Again, the police officer will consider certain issues as signs of intoxication, such as failure to count chronologically, failure to balance on one foot, using their arms to help them balance, etc.

Finally, we have the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. This is considered the most “scientific” of the three tests. A police officer will hold an object in front of the driver’s face and ask them to follow it with their eye. Involuntary jerking in the eye as it attempts to follow the object is supposed to indicated intoxication.

Issues With the Tests

As you might deduce, there can be a lot of issues with these supposed “signs of intoxication.” In all honesty, these tests would be difficult for many completely sober people to perform accurately. How many people can balance on one leg while staying completely still and not swaying at all for 30 seconds? Not many!

There may be other issues with the tests as well. For example, improper road conditions or improper clothing could make the tests difficult to perform. Imagine completing the walk-and-turn test while wearing heels. Not easy to do, even if you haven’t been drinking!

In addition, the police officer may improperly explain or demonstrate the tests and what is asked of the subject. Underlying health conditions may also impact the results and have nothing to do with intoxication.

It is also possible that the police officer improperly scores the tests.

Defending Against Test Results

As you can see, the standardized field sobriety tests are actually highly subjective. There are many reasons why a person may “fail” these tests that a Norwich DUI defense lawyer can bring up on behalf of their client. In some cases, the results of these tests may be thrown out of court if a lawyer can prove that there were other factors at play. For help defending against standardized field sobriety test results, contact us. We can review your situation and see if this evidence can be thrown out of court.

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