Types of Field Sobriety Tests

Types-of-Field-Sobriety-Tests

Field sobriety tests are a set of tests used by law enforcement to determine whether or not an individual is impaired or intoxicated. In this blog, McConathy Law details some of the commonly used FSTs that law enforcement officers use during traffic stops.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

The HGN test is administered as a way to test the alleged offender’s eyes. “Nystagmus” is a term generally used to describe any sort of bouncing or jerking of the eye. In many cases, individuals who show signs of nystagmus aren’t aware of their condition. Nystagmus has no effect on vision, which makes it nearly impossible for an individual to realize that their eyes are horizontally moving in an inconsistent, jerky manner.

HGN tests are typically seen as a scientific and reliable test in a court of law, and as a result, it is typically used as evidence during trials for offenses such as DWI. However, this evidence can be thrown out and completely dismissed if the defense can prove that the test was not administered and conducted according to protocol.

Walk & Turn Test

Another commonly used field sobriety test is the Walk & Turn Test. This is a type of FST that is supposed to measure a suspect’s ability to follow instructions, consistently maintain balance, and walk in a straight line for an extended period of time. This test requires the suspect to take heel-to-toe steps while walking in a straight line. The suspect’s arms must remain at their sides throughout the duration of the test. During this test, the law enforcement officer will be looking for a lack of balance, an inability to follow directions, and other signs of impairment.

One-Leg Turn Test

During this field sobriety test, the subject will be instructed to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground while counting out loud by ones (beginning with one thousand) until they are instructed to put their foot down. During this test, the officer will typically time the subject for approximately 30 seconds. The officer conducting this test will typically look for signs of impairment such as swaying while balancing, using arms to balance, hopping to maintain balance, and putting the foot down before being told to.

Romberg Balance Test

The Romberg balance test is used to evaluate balance and neurological function. Though this test is not one of the approved field sobriety tests of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it is still oftentimes used by police officers when they are trying to detect signs of impairment and intoxication in a suspect.

The Romberg balance test is based on the notion that individuals need two of the following three functions to maintain proper balance: vision, vestibular function (motion and spatial orientation information provided by the inner eat), and proprioception (being aware of the placement of your limbs). If a subject fails to maintain proper balance using two of three functions, it can be interpreted as a sign of intoxication.

When administering this test, the law enforcement officer will have you stand upright with your feet together, close your eyes, tilt your head back, and attempt to estimate when 30 seconds of time have passed. During the test, the law enforcement officer who is administering the field sobriety test will closely observe the amount of swaying, any sort of body and/or eyelid tremors, how accurate the estimate is, and the suspect’s ability to follow instructions.

Other Non-Standardized Tests

The Romberg Balance Test is a non-standardized field sobriety test that is commonly used by law enforcement. However, there are others that police officers sometimes use to incriminate drivers. For example, some officers will instruct subjects to write down or recite the alphabet in order to test for impairment. Another non-standardized test involves instructing subjects to count out loud in reverse, but these tests are not scientifically proven to accurately test for impairment. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, Walk & Turn Test, and The One-Leg Turn Test are currently the only three standardized field sobriety tests.

Field Sobriety Test Accuracy

We hope this has helped you understand the types of field sobriety tests that are commonly administered by law enforcement officers during their traffic stops. Drivers and frequent users of Dallas roadways need to be aware of this type of information. The more information you have, the more knowledgeable you will be if you ever encounter this type of circumstance.
Keep in mind that neither standardized nor non-standardized tests are 100% accurate. There are variables that can affect each and every test, and there have been many cases of individuals “failing” a test while being completely sober and in control of their mental faculties. Because of this, it is important for individuals to be aware of their options if they are facing DWI or DWI-related charges as a result of a failed field sobriety test. There is no reason to allow this to haunt you and stain your criminal record if you are able to fight your charges with the help of a quality criminal defense attorney.

The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy | DWI Lawyer Dallas County

Have you recently field a field sobriety test and now you’re unsure of what steps you should take next? If this is a fear of yours and you don’t know how to move forward, our team of professionals is here to help. The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy is a law firm that specializes in criminal defense. You may be concerned about your driver’s license being potentially suspended for an extended period of time. Perhaps you’re worried about potentially being sentenced to a lengthy prison stint alongside court-mandated fines. If this sounds like you, we’re here to help.

Richard C. McConathy is an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has helped countless Texans overcome their criminal charges. With years of experience working with criminal matters related to DWI, DUI, and other DWI-related offenses, you can count on McConathy and his litigation team to help you with your legal troubles. Defending your honor in a court of law and helping the client receive a favorable outcome is our law firm’s number one priority. We represent our clients with a passion, and we’re committed to building a strong defense that can withstand an aggressive prosecution. If you’re currently facing criminal charges related to your field sobriety testing, call us today at 972-233-5700 for a free initial consultation. You can also contact us by filling out our online contact form.


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