Many people are familiar with the concept of a field sobriety test for driving under the influence. Perhaps officers have pulled a driver over for swerving on the road, or a DUI checkpoint is in place, or maybe there’s been a traffic accident and the police are investigating. At some point, a request will often be made that the individual submit to a field sobriety test to determine whether the driver has been drinking.
Officers have broad discretion regarding what form of tests they will use to determine whether alcohol has been consumed, the most well-known likely being a request to recite the alphabet backwards. However, there are certain standardized tests that will be conducted during every field sobriety test. These include the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN test), the walk and turn, and the one leg stand.
During the HGN test the officer will direct the individual to track a certain stimulus, such as a pen, and will examine the individual’s eyes for certain jerking movements. During the walk and turn test the individual will be told to walk nine steps in a straight line, keeping their feet heel to toe, and then turn back around and do the process once again. Finally, during the one leg stand the individual will be told to, of course, stand on one foot for a period of thirty seconds with their arms to their sides.
When officers request that an individual submit to a field sobriety test many feel that they are required to comply. However, an individual is always free to refuse to take the tests regardless of how many times the officer asks them to. These tests are simply investigatory tools for the police to determine if there is sufficient evidence to justify an arrest and the results of any such test will likely be used as evidence in any prosecution for driving under the influence. This does not, however, mean that a refusal will prevent you from being arrested at all if the officer believes that they otherwise have sufficient evidence to make the arrest. A person’s decision to submit or not to a field sobriety test often can have a major impact on any DUI case. Individuals should always keep all of these facts in mind when making a decision regarding whether or not to comply with a field sobriety test request.