What Are the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests that Police Officers Administer?

When a law enforcement officer stops you and asks you to perform certain physical actions, these are field sobriety tests.

After sponsoring research into driving under the influence (DUI), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) arrived at these standard tests to help officers decide whether to arrest a driver based on intoxication:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus. This test checks for the involuntary eye jerking that happens when people look to the side. While it is a normal response, this movement becomes extreme when someone has been drinking. An officer slowly moves an object, such as a pen, from side to side while asking the person to follow with their eyes. If the person cannot easily follow the object or if the eye starts jerking excessively when the pen is at a certain angle, the officer can infer intoxication. However, these responses may also indicate that the driver is taking seizure medication or other medications.
  • Walk and turn. In this test, the officer has the driver walk nine steps heel-to-toe in a straight line and then turn on one foot to return to the original position. Trouble balancing and following instructions or stepping off the line and other mistakes can indicate blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher.
  • One-leg stand. In this test, the driver must stand with one foot lifted approximately 6 inches off the ground and count by thousands until the officer says to put the foot down. The test lasts 30 seconds, and the officer watches for balance problems, using the arms for balance and the foot touching the ground.

You have the right to refuse a field sobriety test in Arizona. Understanding what the tests involve may help you decide whether to submit to the tests. Unfortunately, you do not have the right to consult with a DUI lawyer first.

Once an officer informs you of arrest, contact an Arizona DUI attorney as soon as possible. An experienced law firm can often help you beat a DUI arrest.