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What are officers looking for during field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | May 16, 2022 | DUI

A night out with your friends can be a great way to relax after a long day. Even if your day is not particularly stressful, going out for drinks can be a low-pressure way to spend time together.

While you are out, you may lose track of your number of drinks, or your sober ride may abandon you, leaving you few options for getting home. When you left, you may have felt fine, but when you see flashing lights in your mirror, you may start to worry about what will happen next.

Typically a DUI stop will include a field sobriety test. Here’s what officers are looking for in the three most common tests.

Walk-and-turn test

The walk-and-turn test is the test you will most often see depicted in movies and TV. The officer will ask you to walk heel-to-toe, turn, and walk heel-to-toe back to where you started.

While you are performing the test, the officer will be watching for traits that could indicate that you had too much to drink, such as:

  • Using your arms to balance
  • Inability to follow the directions
  • Stopping to regain your balance
  • Starting before the officer is done giving directions

If the officer notices more than two of these behaviors, they will likely ask you to take a breathalyzer test.

One-leg stand test

Similar to the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand test measures your ability to coordinate your ability to balance and follow directions. During this test, the officer will ask you to stand on one leg and count until they tell you to stop.

Horizontal gaze nystagmus test

Unlike the other two tests, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test does not require balance or coordination. Instead, the officer looks at how much your eye jerks as you follow a moving object with your eyes.

Horizontal gaze nystagmus is an involuntary reflex that typically becomes more pronounced when you are intoxicated.

If you are unsure if you have had too much to drink, you should look for a sober ride home. While a rideshare may seem expensive, a DUI can be costly and significantly impact your life.

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