Minneapolis DWI Lawyer Discusses Field Sobriety Tests

According to an explanation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, research into a standardized method for officers to use when evaluating drivers suspected of drunk driving began in the mid-1970s. By 1981, law enforcement officers were using a Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST) in order to help make arrest decisions regarding drivers believed to have a blood alcohol level of .10 or higher. Later, the tests scores were modified so that officers could use the tests to evaluate drivers suspected of having blood alcohol levels of .08 and .04 as some states passed stricter drunk driving laws.

The Standard Field Sobriety Test consists of three separate evaluations. The first, the horizontal gaze nystagmus checks for involuntary jerking of the eye muscles when the individual looks to the side. The nystagmus in a drunk person may be more exaggerated and occurs at lesser angles, the NHTSA explained. The second and third evaluations — the walk and turn and the one-leg stand — require individuals to do simple physical movements while following an officer’s commands. People who are impaired by alcohol may have difficulty dividing their attention between listening and performing physical tasks, the NHTSA stated.

The problem with these field sobriety is that there are a number of different issues — even wearing high heels during the walk and turn or one-leg stand — that can make an officer believe that an individual is drunk when they’re not. It is also important to note that you’re not required to submit to these field sobriety tests. If you’ve been pulled over on suspicion of DWI, you are encouraged to politely refuse both the field sobriety tests as well as answering any questions. Do not admit to anything. Contact a Minneapolis DWI Lawyer before you test at the station.

For more information about field sobriety tests or for quality defense of DWI and other charges, contact us.