Standardized and Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

joliet dui attorneyIn the state of Illinois, driving under the influence (DUI) covers many different types of impaired driving, from driving under the influence of alcohol to driving under while intoxicated after using drugs, including prescription medications or illegal substances. In 2016, 29,528 DUI arrests were made, according to the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.

When you get pulled over for a suspected DUI, the police officer may ask you to exit your vehicle and conduct a number of field sobriety tests to determine if you are impaired.

What Is a Field Sobriety Test?

A field sobriety test is one of the first things a police officer uses as a way of determining whether a person is under the influence while driving. There are both standardized and non-standardized field sobriety tests which allow officers to observe a person’s sense of balance, physical control, or ability to maintain attention. These tests are usually administered after a person is pulled over and is asked for their license and registration.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests can be either standardized or non-standardized. The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) was implemented in the early 1980s by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and consists of three parts: the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand test.

Standardized Tests

The SFST is the most commonly used test to determine possible intoxication. It consists of:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus – This test is a way of measuring involuntary jerking of the eyeball that can occur when an intoxicated person looks to the side. Usually, when a person is intoxicated, they will also have difficulty following a moving object, which police officers can detect by using this test.
  • Walk-and-turn – During this test, the officer instructs the suspect to take nine heel-to-toe steps in a straight line, then turn on one foot and come back to the officer in the same manner. With this test, the officer is looking at how well the suspect remains balanced, if the suspect can listen to the instructions, or if the suspect uses their arms to balance.
  • One-leg stand – In this test, the officer instructs the driver to stand on one foot and count out loud for 30 seconds. During this test, the officer is looking for signs of impairment, such as swaying, hopping, or putting their foot down.

Non-Standardized Tests

In addition to the SFST, officers commonly use a variety of non-standardized tests to determine possible intoxication. These tests include:

  • Romberg balance test – This test is based on the idea that vision, equilibrium, and knowing where you are in space are necessary to maintain balance. During this test, an officer will ask you to stand with your feet together, head tilted back, and eyes closed. The officer will then ask you to estimate when 30 seconds has passed, observing your ability to balance and follow directions.
  • Finger-to-nose – During this test, an officer will ask you to close your eyes, tilt your head back, and touch your nose with your index finger. The officer will look for swaying, the inability to follow directions, or the inability to touch your nose.
  • ABC Test – With this test, an officer will likely ask you to recite a portion of the alphabet – for example, from G to Q. The officer will look for the inability to focus, slurred speech, and difficulty following directions.

Contact a Skilled DUI Attorney

If you have been arrested and charged with DUI, you need the help of an experienced Will County DUI defense lawyer. Field sobriety tests – especially non-standardized ones – can be subjective, and their effectiveness has been debated. Contact the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba to explore your options for fighting your DUI charge. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-740-4025.

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