Types of Field Sobriety Test

  • Standardized vs. non-standardized tests
  • Correlation of driving behaviors with alcohol levels
  • Odor of alcohol, slurred speech, red eyes
  • Divided-attention questioning
  • Romberg balancing test
  • Other non-standardized tests
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test
  • Walk and turn test
  • One-leg stand test
  • Field tests are unreliable indicators


If you have ever been pulled over by a police officer under the suspicion that you were driving erratically, it is likely he administered a DUI field sobriety test or perhaps more than one. These are carefully constructed tasks designed to test your balance, coordination, and cognitive abilities. A police officer can interpret your performance to determine whether or not you are intoxicated. The legal team at Summit Defense has seen and argued against a number of these assessments during time in trials, and it is important to understand the purpose of each of these actions.


During your stop, the officer will give you clear and concise directions about how each task is to be performed, and exactly when to begin them. Walking the line is perhaps the most well known DUI field sobriety test. You are instructed to take nine steps along a line while placing your feet heel to toe and not using your hands for balance. Offers use a number of indicators during this action to determine cognitive and balance impairment, including: beginning the task too early, losing your balance, or raising your arms to support yourself.

Another way an officer determines whether or not you are intoxicated utilizes your visual coordination. This is called the horizontal nystagmus test. The officer will ask you to follow an object with your eyes as he moves it back and forth along a horizontal line. This DUI field sobriety test takes advantage of the body’s physiological effects to being impaired. When an intoxicated person’s eyes try to track an object past a certain point, they experience nystagmus, a rapid oscillation of the pupil back and forth. A properly trained officer can spot this rapid movement and will use this information to determine that you are intoxicated.

The Summit Defense legal team has experience refuting or defending against the results of these assessments and many others. If you or a loved one is facing DUI charges, contact our offices.

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