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Understanding field sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Aug 16, 2023 | Drunk Driving Charges |

A traffic stop often means that the police notice a driver acting in a way that might suggest they were doing or will do illegal activities, such as drunk driving. For example, driving between lanes, swerving or running lights may lead to a traffic stop. However, the police may not have evidence to prove a driver is drunk. 

During a traffic stop, the police can investigate the driver for signs of inebriation. The police could, for instance, notice an open bottle of alcohol in the vehicle or find the driver leaving a bar before operating the vehicle. Typically, the police will use field sobriety tests to gather evidence against a driver. 

Field sobriety tests are a kind of physical examination. There are three tests standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Here’s what you should know about each field sobriety test:

Horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN)

A horizontal gaze nystagmus test allows an officer to evaluate a driver’s focus. They’ll conduct this test by holding out a pen or finger, for example, and ask the driver to follow it with only their eyes. If the officer notices the driver is struggling to focus on the object, it could indicate inebriation. 

Walk-and-turn test (WAT)

An officer may ask a driver to do a walk-and-turn test. The driver will have to walk on a straight light, putting their toes to their heel with every step. If the driver falls or walks off the line, then they could be drunk.

One-legged stand test (OLS)

Finally, a driver may have to do a one-legged stand test. As the name implies, the driver will have to lift one leg and balance on it for several seconds during this test. If the driver falls then the officer may believe the driver is inebriated. 

Drivers should be aware that they have rights during traffic stops. If a driver believes their rights were violated, then it can help to reach out for legal help.