DUI Standardized Field Sobriety Tests


When a person is pulled over on suspicion of intoxicated driving, police often uses standardized field sobriety tests in order to establish probable cause for arrest. These standardized tests are deemed to be the most reliable field tests available to officers, and are carried out in the majority of DUI investigations. Used in conjunction with breathalyzer or other chemical test readings, field sobriety tests can strengthen a police officer’s case against an alleged intoxicated driver. Used separately as evidence, however, field sobriety tests are highly unreliable, and most experts in the field of DUI law acknowledge a huge margin of error.

If you have been pulled over by a police officer and he or she uses standardized field tests in order to determine whether or not you are under the influence of alcohol, contact a lawyer as soon as possible. If you haven’t already contacted an attorney, try to recall as many details about the test and how the officer administered it, so that you can relay this information to your DUI lawyer and expose any procedural errors or mistakes made throughout the process.

Grabel & Associates is available 24/7 to speak with anyone who has been accused of driving while under the influence of alcohol in Michigan, and under the direction of experienced trial lawyer Scott Grabel, our firm has been fighting for Michigan’s accused for over a decade. We have the experience needed to help clients achieve the best possible case results, and will not rest until everything has been done to protect you or your loved one from a wrongful DUI conviction. Call our law firm now or contact Grabel & Associates online for a free DUI case analysis, and find out more about how standardized field sobriety tests affect cases.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

One of the first standardized tests that officers usually perform is a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, which is essentially looking at your eyes and trying to determine if they appear to move normally. Nystagmus is an involuntary eye twitch, which can result from alcohol intoxication. An officer will look primarily for three things during this test:

  • Lack of smooth eye movements when following an object
  • Involuntary twitching (Nystagmus) when eyes move to the side
  • Nystagmus onset before a 45 degree movement

During this test, an officer should instruct you to stand with your hands by your side and feet together before showing you an object such as a finger, pen, or flashlight and asking you to move your eyes in sync with the object while keeping your head and neck still. The officer should seek verbal confirmation that you understand what he or she is saying, and should always check if you are wearing contacts before administering the test. Officers are supposed to observe pupil size and equal tracking of the eyes prior to seeking out any of the three abnormalities listed above, and failure to comply with any of these procedures could render the results of the test unreliable. Oftentimes officers don’t take the time to properly administer a test, and false positive results are a definite risk, especially in cases involving a BAC below the legal limit. Work with a lawyer who understands standardized field-tests and ensure an overzealous officer or prosecutor does not take you advantage of.

Walk and Turn Test

During this test, the officer should instruct you to place you left foot on a line, and then your right foot in front with the heel of the right foot touching the toe of the left, with your arms to the side. The officer should demonstrate and receive verbal confirmation that you understand what he or she is asking. You should then be instructed to look down at your feet and continue walking heel-to-toe while counting your steps out loud. You will then have to turn around and walk back in the same fashion to the starting point.

Officers will look at your balance, ability to follow instructions, ability to keep walking, straightness of the line you walk in, accuracy in counting steps, ability to turn, and a number of other details in order to determine if a person may be intoxicated. If the test is administered on uneven ground, if you have a physical condition that may prevent you from properly completing the test, or if the instructions given by the officer were incorrect or unclear, the results of this test can be completely skewed.

One Leg Stand Test

A third standardized test is the One Leg Stand test, during which an officer will instruct you to stand on one leg and hold the position, at which point he or she will look for potential signs of balance issues, the inability to keep one foot up, hopping or twisting motions, or the use of arms to balance. This test faces similar issues to the walk and turn test, and for some people is very difficult to perform, regardless of if they are intoxicated.

Contact Grabel & Associates to Defend Against DUI Conviction

A competent DUI defense lawyer will work to demonstrate how the officer erred in administering these standardized tests, and what evidence exists to prove that you were not intoxicated when you were driving a motor vehicle. To learn more about how our firm can protect you, call 1-800-342-7896 now or contact a skilled defense attorney online. We know what it takes to achieve excellent case results for clients in even the most complex cases, and are available 24/7 to begin fighting for you.