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Are you required to do standardized field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Oct 27, 2023 | Divorce

During traffic stops, the police may gather evidence against a driver if they are suspected to be drunk. The police often start by collecting the driver’s license and asking questions. If this doesn’t give enough evidence that a driver is drunk, then they may ask them to do standardized field sobriety tests (SFST). 

A SFST is a kind of physical examination of a driver. The driver may go through a series of tests that are judged by the police. The police often look for physical signs that a driver is inebriated. 

For many drivers, these tests may seem ridiculous. Drivers may question if they are required to do these tests. Before you learn about SFST laws, it can help to learn about the different kinds of SFSTs. Here’s what you should know:

The different kinds of SFSTs

The police have several SFSTs that they may conduct in any order. Here are the three kinds of SFSTs:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: The driver may be asked to look at a moving object. They may be asked to keep their head still but move their eyes as they follow the object. 
  • Walk-and-turn test: A police officer may ask a driver to walk on a straight line toe-to-heel. The driver will take a few paces and then walk back to where they started.
  • One-legged stand test: The driver may be asked to lift one leg from the ground. They’ll then have to hold that position for several seconds.

Any other kind of test is considered non-standardized. A non-standardized field sobriety test could involve, for example, the driver touching their nose and spelling words backward.

When a driver applies for their license, they accept implied consent laws. These laws state that drivers accept that they must take chemical sobriety tests post-arrest (such as a breathalyzer or blood test) or they could face penalties – but the same is not true of SFSTs. You can refuse those without penalty. Given how subjective they are, that’s something to consider.

If you or your loved one is facing charges of drunk driving after a traffic, legal guidance is wise.