Why Should I Refuse to Take the Field Sobriety Tests?

Recently, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a man was charged with DUI. The police officers who pulled him over said that he was not able to perform the standardized field sobriety tests well enough to pass the tests. But when tested, his blood alcohol content (BAC) came back at 0.00%. This man was not intoxicated. He did not have even a sip of alcohol. Yet, he failed the standardized fields sobriety tests and was charged with DUI.

What can we make of these results? Unfortunately, it is just one example of the ways in which the standardized field sobriety tests are flawed and designed to make you fail. Even a perfectly sober person could not perform the tests to the police officer’s satisfaction. This is why we advise our clients NOT to submit to such tests. Learn more about why and how to refuse standardized field sobriety tests here.

What are the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests?

If a police officer pulls you over and thinks that you are driving under the influence, they will ask you to perform standardized field sobriety tests. There are three of these tests. The tests include:

  1. The Walk and Turn Test
  2. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
  3. The One Leg Stand Test

All tests are meant to determine your ability to understand and respond to directions. The walk and turn test and the one leg stand test in particular test your coordination, balance, and ability to multitask. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test observes the “nystagmus” level in a person’s eye. Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking reaction in the eyes when a person is under the influence.

There are additional tests that a police officer may ask a person to perform, but these tests are not standardized or official.

Why Aren’t the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests That Reliable?

While the police and prosecutors might treat field tests as the be all end all of DUI cases, the truth of the matter is that these tests are not 100% reliable. There are many factors that can impact the results of these tests. A few common issues include:

  • Improper training of police regarding how to administer the tests.
  • Other factors in driver (tired, emotionally distraught, overweight, injured, etc.) that might manifest as drunkenness.
  • Issues with where the tests are being performed (ex. dim lighting, raining or snowing, uneven pavement, too close to shoulder of road, etc.) that could affect the results of the tests.

Defending Against Field Sobriety Tests

As you can see, it is a good idea to avoid the standardized field sobriety tests – even if you are sober! You might think that you have nothing to lose by complying with the officer, but as you can see, you can still fail the tests even if you are sober. If you did take the field sobriety tests, contact my office. We may be able to prove that the standardized field sobriety tests were not administered properly, and that the results should not be used against you.


My name is Teresa, and I am a DUI lawyer, but that is only part of who I am. I have been practicing law in Connecticut since 2006.


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