Types of Field Sobriety Tests

By The Law Office of Christopher H. Cessna  Jul. 8, 2010 4:32p

When you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer who believes that you may have been drinking, there are many different ways that the officer can determine whether or not your driving has been impaired by alcohol or drugs. One of the most common tests is a breathalyzer, which measures your blood alcohol level (BAC). Sometimes, before a BAC test is done or if the equipment is not available, the officer will conduct a series of field sobriety tests. These tests are not 100% accurate and a qualified Denver DUI attorney can review your case and find out if there were any problems with the tests. The three most approved field sobriety tests were developed by the National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration. They are:

  • The One-Leg Stand: On a hard, flat, and dry surface, you will be asked to lift one foot about six inches and then count to thirty. Your arms will remain at your side. The officer will notice if you sway, hop, lower your foot, or otherwise try to stabilize yourself. If you are over 65, have a disability, or are over fifty pounds overweight, this test becomes less accurate.
  • Walk and Turn: On a hard, flat, and dry surface, you will be asked to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, in a straight line. You will then turn around and repeat those nine steps back. If you take too many or too few step, use your arms for balance, fall, or turn "incorrectly," the officer may arrest you for DUI. If you have a disability, are fatigued, are more than 50 pounds overweight, the accuracy of the test decreases.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test: Nystagmus is an involuntary shake or jerk in eye movement. This test requires that you follow an object with your eyes. The officer will watch your eyes and notice if there is any involuntary movement. If there is, you can be arrested for DUI. Many people suffer from nystagmus even when they are not inebriated. If you have suffered a stroke, have multiple sclerosis or a brain tumor, impaired vision, or have taken sedatives, you may falsely be convicted of a DUI.
  • An officer may also ask you to recite part of the alphabet, sometimes backwards, count backwards, perform a Rhomberg stationary balance test in which you stand with your feet together and arms out and lean your head back, touch your finger to your nose, or count the number of fingers that the officer is showing.  

Attorney Christopher H. Cessna has taught law enforcement officers how to conduct these tests, so he is well aware of all of their possible shortcomings. Contact Metro Denver DUI Defense Lawyer at the Law Office of Christopher H. Cessna for qualified defense.

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