The 7 Types of Field Sobriety Tests That You’ll Always Fail

Image of an illustrated police

Drinking and driving is never the way to go, but no matter how much you’ve drank, if you’re pulled over, there’s a huge likelihood you’ll fail the sobriety test. Police have 7 ways to determine whether or not you get a DUI, driving under the influence.

All 7 ways are designed to ensure failure.

 

What Is a Field Sobriety Test?
Illustration of a breathalyzer

Field Sobriety Tests are used by police officers to determine whether or not you have been driving under the influence, DUI. Influence means anything can impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle: any drugs or alcohol. In addition to the term DUI, police also use the term DWI, driving while intoxicated.

Suspects do not “pass” or “fail” Field Sobriety tests. Police determine whether or not they’ve observed “clues” that can lead to a DUI or DWI during tests.

 

There are 3 tests that have been scientifically “validated” by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) that you would likely fail:

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test Title
 

  • In this test, the suspect must follow an object with the eyes, like a pen, at an approximate distance of 12 to 15 inches away.
  • The HGN is based on a quirk of human biology, an involuntary twitch called Nystagmus:
    • The human eye twitches involuntarily when looking sideways at an angle greater than 45°.
    • People with high BAC, blood alcohol content, twitch before hitting the 45° angle.
  • HGN determines eye movement reaction.

 

Illustration of a police officer

What does the officer look for during the HGN test?

  • If the eyes move smoothly or twitch noticeably.
  • If the eyes twitch when moving them as far to the side as possible.
  • If the eyes twitch before it has passed the 45° angle.

The HGN will only be admissible if the following factors are met:

  • It is administered by a police officer who has had HGN training.
  • The suspect’s eyes can be seen clearly, the test is administered in a well-lit area or with a flashlight.
  • No oncoming blinking lights from either a police cruiser or passing cars disrupted the test.
  • Suspect was not wearing eyeglasses or was instructed to remove them.
  • If police officer hold the stimulus 12 to 15 inches away.
  • If police officer passes the stimulus twice past each eye.

 

Illustration of a Law Book

HGN Defense Strategy

HGN can be caused by a number of factors that are not related to alcohol or drugs such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Illness
  • Hypertension
  • Caffeine
  • Aspirin

Title for The Walk and Turn Test Section
 

The Walk and Turn Test has two stages:

  • Stage 1:
    Suspect stands heel-to-toe and arms to the side while the officer provides instructions.
  • Stage 2:
    Suspect walks nine heel-to-toe steps forward on a real or imaginary line, pivots or turns, and walks back another nine heel-to-toe steps.

During the test, the suspect must remain with the hands to the sides. The suspect must also loudly count out each step.

 

Illustration of a police officer

What does the officer look for during the Walk and Turn?

  1. If there is difficulty balancing while listening to instructions.
  2. If the suspect starts the test before the instruction stage is complete.
  3. If the suspect stops while walking.
  4. If the suspect cannot walk heel-to-toe.
  5. If the suspect steps off the line.
  6. If the suspect uses the arms form balance.
  7. If the suspect turns incorrectly.
  8. If the suspect takes the incorrect number of steps.

The Walk and Turn test will only be admissible if the following factors are met:

Instructions were given as mandated by the NHTSA.

The test took place under safe conditions:

  1. Over a reasonably dry, hard, level and non-slippery surface.
  2. The suspect is in no danger of falling.
  3. There is enough room to complete the 9 heel-to-toe steps.
  4. If the location wasn’t safe, the suspect was moved to a more safer location where the conditions to perform the test were better.
  5. There is a line that the suspect can see or imagine.
  6. There is enough lighting, whether natural, from the surroundings or from the officer’s flashlight, so that the suspect can clearly see the officer’s face.
Illustration of a Law Book

Walk and Turn Defense Strategy

A failed Walk and Turn test can be attacked with the following arguments:

  • Suspect was not instructed to place left foot first on the line and then right foot.
  • Suspect was not instructed to put both arms to the side.
  • Suspect’s imaginary line, if the line was imaginary, deferred from the officer’s imaginary line.
  • If suspect has any mind or body impairments such as:
    • Being over 60 years old
    • Having certain problems with various parts of the body
    • Being extremely small or obese in nature
    • Mental disabilities
    • Brain damage
  • Suspect was giving the test under common roadside distractions such as:
    • Oncoming traffic
    • Honking
    • Sirens
  • Officer somehow distracted the suspect by walking around or any other distractive behavior.
  • Suspect wasn’t allowed to take off his/her heels if the heels are more than 2 inches tall.
  • Suspect had to take the test wearing clothes that might interfere with the ability to take the test.

Title for The One Leg Stand Test Section

The One Leg Stand Test is meant to assess the suspect’s divided attention.

The suspect is required to divide his/her attention into two tasks:

Task 1: A mental task that involves following verbal instructions

Task 2: A physical task that involves balancing on one foot for 30 seconds.

Task 2 involves the following:

  • The suspect must count by thousands until the officer tells him/her to stop, all while keeping both arms to the sides and looking down to the foot.
  • The foot must be held off the ground 6 inches, in a stiff-leg manner and parallel with the ground.
  • The officer must keep track of time until the 30 seconds are complete.
Illustration of a police officer

What does the officer look for during the test?

  1. If the suspect puts the foot down before completing the test.
  2. If the suspect sways while trying to maintain balance.
  3. If the suspect hops while trying to maintain balance.
  4. If the suspect utilized the arms to maintain balance.

 

The One Leg Stand Test will only be admissible if the following factors are met:

Instructions were given as mandated by the NHTSA

The test was administered under safe conditions:

  • Over a reasonably dry, hard, level and non-slippery surface.
  • The suspect was moved to a more convenient location where the conditions to perform the test were better.
  • There was enough lighting, whether natural, from the surroundings or from the officer’s flashlight, so that the suspect can clearly see the officer’s face.

 

Illustration of a Law Book

“One Leg Stand” Defense

A failed “One Leg Stand” test can be attacked with the following arguments:

  • Surface was uneven or covered in gravel.
  • Cars were passing by at high speeds.
  • Police patrol car blue lights were glaring in suspect’s eyes, affecting balance.
  • If suspect has any mind or body impairments such as:
    • Being over 60 years old
    • Having certain problems with various parts of the body
    • Being extremely small or obese in nature
    • Mental disabilities
    • Brain damage
  • Incorrect test timing of police.
  • Officer somehow distracted the suspect by walking around or any other distractive behavior.
  • Suspect wasn’t allowed to take off his/her heels if the heels are more than 2 inches tall.

Other tests that have not been scientifically validated, but that you will certainly fail if it’s the officer’s will:


Illustration for title of section 4 Reciting Specific Portions of the Alphabet

  • Suspect is asked to recite all or part of the alphabet.

Illustration for title of section 5Counting Backwards

  • Suspect is asked to count backwards from a number ending in a number other than 5 or 0 and stopping at a number ending other than 5 or 0.
  • The series of numbers are usually more than 15.

Illustration for title of section 6Touching Thumbs to Fingers Sequentially

  • Suspect is asked to touch each finger of the hand with the thumb, counting each touch (1,2,3,4 and 4,3,2,1)

Illustration for title of section 7The Romberg Test

  • Also called the Modified-Position-of-Attention Test.
  • The suspect is asked to place feet together, head back, and eyes closed for 30 seconds.

 99 times out of 100 you are going to fail these tests if the officer has already decided you are guilty of a DUI or DWI.

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