What Are Police Officers Looking for in Field Sobriety Tests?

When you got pulled over, you begin to regret getting behind the wheel as a police officer is approaching your vehicle. As the police officer begins asking questions and then tells you to exit your car, you realize that you shouldn’t have had that last drink.

Yes, you are about to participate in field sobriety tests. Now, you begin to wonder: “Should I refuse to participate in the test?” At this point, knowing what police officers are looking for when conducting field sobriety tests can help you make that decision.

After all, if you know that you would not be able to walk straight or maintain your balance, then you may choose to refuse to take the test to avoid DWI or DUI charges.

Signs of Impairment During the Walk-and-Turn Test

When the police officers request the walk-and-turn test, in which you are supposed to take nine steps along a straight line, heel-to-toe, turn on one foot, and then repeat the same in reverse, they will look for these indications of alcohol impairment:

  • Failing to stand still before the officer completes the instructions
  • Excessively using your arms for balance
  • Taking the wrong number of steps (more or less than nine)
  • Stopping to regain your balance
  • Failing to walk heel-to-toe
  • Losing your balance while turning

Note: Even a sober person may fail this test, especially in a stressful situation.

Signs of Impairment During the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test

If the police officer requests the HGN test, he or she will look for several indications of impairment when you are asked to follow an object with your eyes:

  • Jerking of the eyeballs beginning before your eyes reach a 45-degree angle
  • Failing to smoothly follow the object
  • Jerking becoming too exaggerated when your eye reaches maximum deviation

Just like the walk-and-turn test, the HGN test is not 100% accurate, which means the results of the field sobriety test can be challenged by a skilled New Orleans DWI defense attorney. The same can be said about Breathalyzer & Breath Tests. Studies have shown that the HGN test is accurate 77% of the time.

Signs of Impairment During the One-Leg Stand Test

If the police asked you to stand with one foot around six inches off the ground and count from 1,001, he or she is looking for the following signs of intoxication:

  • Not being able to hold your foot off the ground
  • Putting your foot down
  • Swaying in order to maintain balance
  • Hopping on one foot to maintain balance
  • Using your arms to balance

Obviously, even a sober person can have trouble keeping his or her balance while participating in the test for a number of reasons. These field sobriety tests are somewhat subjective because it is up to the officer to decide whether you pass or fail the test.

These and many other factors cannot be ignored when preparing a criminal defense strategy if you were charged with DUI. Contact the Law Office of Robert S. Toale for a consultation. Call our New Orleans criminal lawyers at 504-368-8440.




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