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Sobriety Test

If you have ever been pulled over for any type of traffic violation, you undoubtedly know how nerve-wracking the experience can be. Many drivers panic at the very thought of receiving a citation (like reckless driving), while others experience guilt and fear when facing the police officer who stopped them. As you can imagine, this becomes even more terrifying if the officer also asks you to take a field sobriety test because he or she suspects you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI).

As the name suggests, field sobriety tests are used to determine whether a driver’s mental and physical abilities are impaired due to alcohol and/or drug use. This is done by evaluating your ability to perform a series of seemingly simple exercises, such as walking an imaginary straight line and balancing on one foot. Depending on the state, you may even be asked to recite the alphabet!

Although the laws regarding field sobriety tests differ from state to state, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) specifies national guidelines for administering these exercises. As a result, only three types of sobriety tests have been deemed reliable for determining a person’s level of impairment—the one leg stand, horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), and the walk and turn test. 

Despite this national standard, it is important to remember that field sobriety tests are not always accurate. If the officer has not been trained to administer the test properly, or if the test is not given in an appropriate environment (level, dry ground with adequate lighting), the results may be flawed. In such cases, your field sobriety test results may be found inadmissible in court, which often means the charges against you must be dismissed.

Remember, failing a field sobriety test does not always mean you were intoxicated. Unlike blood and breath alcohol testing, sobriety tests are highly subjective—meaning there’s no scientific way to determine whether or not you were actually under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time the test was administered. 

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