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Field Sobriety Tests

Definition - What does Field Sobriety Tests mean?

The types of field sobriety tests conducted by U.S. laws enforcement agencies varied for many years, with different groups using a wide variety of tests to identify drivers who were under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

By the 1970s, however, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had identified and endorsed the three testing strategies they believed were most effective at identifying intoxicated drivers. Currently, there are three tests which are used throughout the United States: the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, the walk-and-turn test (WAT), and the one-leg stand test (OLS).

The NHTSA has identified specific requirements and techniques for administering the test, as well as established criteria for identifying intoxicated drivers. According to the NHTSA, if the tests are conducted according to the specified requirements, the rate of identifying intoxicated drivers could be as high as 90%.

Should I submit to the field sobriety tests?

Many drivers do not realize that they can legally refuse to submit to the field sobriety tests, although a refusal does not mean that the driver will not ultimately be arrested and charged with DUI. In fact, drivers who refuse to take the field sobriety tests may be arrested and asked to submit to a chemical test of their blood, breath, and urine. If they refuse the chemical test they will generally face an automatic administrative license suspension.

Do sober drivers fail the field sobriety tests?

One of the strongest arguments against taking a field sobriety test is that some drivers who are not intoxicated may not perform well on one or more of the tests. Drivers who may have a difficult time passing a field sobriety test can include the elderly, the disabled, and those who are overweight.

Unfortunately, if you are stopped for DUI you generally will not have the right to consult a lawyer prior to deciding whether or not to submit to a field sobriety test. For this reason, it is important that you understand the laws in your state and talk to a lawyer if you have questions about your rights before and after a DUI arrest.

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