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A Guide to Field Sobriety Tests

If a police officer has pulled you over, they may attempt to establish probable cause that you have been driving while intoxicated. It is very likely that the officer will ask you to step out of your vehicle to perform a series of field sobriety tests. Learn what to expect, what your rights are, and what to do next.

What is a Standardized Field Sobriety Test?

A Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) is a test that is administered by a police officer to a driver in order to determine whether or not the driver is intoxicated. There are several SFSTs that a police officer may ask you to perform. The tests will most likely include the finger-to-nose test, reciting the alphabet, walk-and-turn, a one-leg stand, and a horizontal gaze nystagmus test. The finger-to-nose test requires the driver to put their head back and, with their eyes closed, touch the tip of their nose with their index finger. If asked to do a walk-and-turn, the officer expects you to walk heel to toe in a straight line, turn, and walk back to your original position in the same way. When performing a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the police officer will move their finger, a pen, or another object from side to side to see if your eyes can follow the movement without making a jerking motion. The only three tests that are formally sanctioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are the walk-and turn, the one-leg stand, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. However, the police officer may ask you to perform any number of tests, including blowing into a portable Breathalyzer in order to test your blood alcohol content (BAC).

Performing the tests

It is important to understand that, while the officer may ask you to perform several SFSTs, you are not required to perform the tests. You can respectfully decline the officer’s request. Keep in mind, however, the potential consequences of refusal. If you have been arrested for a vehicle or traffic offense or been involved in an accident, the officer can ask you to perform a screening test. If you refuse to perform the test, it results in another traffic infraction. If you have been arrested and you are asked to take a blood, urine, or breath test, you are required to comply. This is because, as a licensed driver, you are subject to the Implied Consent Law. The Implied Consent law states that acquiring a driver’s license means that you have consented to tests under certain circumstances, like a blood, urine, or breath test if you are arrested for suspicion of drunk driving. If you refuse, your license will be suspended for at least one year, depending on the license class.

What to do

If you have been pulled over for or charged with a DWI, it is advisable that you seek legal counsel. Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria, located in Buffalo, has attorneys who are widely recognized as leaders in the field. The DWI lawyers at Lipsitz Green have in-depth knowledge of a client's rights, the potential penalties that may arise, and the possible weaknesses in charges against a client. We are dedicated to providing a tough and effective DWI defense.

This article does not purport to give legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

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