If you’re stopped on suspicion of DUI, the officer will likely ask you to perform a series of standard field sobriety tests. These tests help the officer determine whether you or not you have some level of impairment from the roadside. Before deciding whether or not you will consent to these tests, you likely are wondering what the phases are on those tests. What do they ask of you? What order do they test in? And what do these tests mean when it comes down to whether or not you get a DUI?
Standard Field Sobriety Tests: What to Expect When Stopped
HGN is a short term for a component of the field sobriety test officers look for. The HGN, or horizontal gaze nystagmus test, refers to the natural jerking of the eye that takes place when someone looks to the side. This movement becomes much more exaggerated and noticeable when someone has been drinking. Therefore, officers will test eye movement, and measure the eye’s ability to follow an object, and the smoothness of movement.
Walk and Turn
The officer will ask the driver to walk nine steps in a straight line. The driver must take these steps with the heel following right up to the toe. Once he completes the nine steps, he must turn on one foot and do the same coming back. This phase of the test, measures the driver’s ability to maintain balance and follow directions.
In this phase of the test, the driver will need to stand on one leg with the other lifted roughly 6 inches from the ground. He will then need to begin to count to 30. Any swaying, hopping, or using arms to balance may indicate the driver’s impairment.
Additional Phases of the Test
Officers may require additional challenges outside of the standard parts of the test. These could include saying the alphabet, counting backwards, or closing your eyes and touching your nose. Others may include counting the number of fingers the officer holds up, and leaning back to look up at the sky while holding your arms out to your side. The officer may then write down his judgement on how a driver completed these tasks. This report can become evidence for conviction of a DWI in court.
The key thing to remember about standard field sobriety tests, is that you have no obligation to perform them. Unlike a breathalyzer, where you will face penalty for refusing, field sobriety tests are not required by any measure. In fact, they can work against you in court when recordings are shown.