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DUI questions: Learn about the Standardized Field Sobriety Test

Being pulled over for suspicion of DUI is sure to make your stomach churn. Even if you know you only had one drink, a traffic stop is still enough to make anyone nervous.

It's important to understand the elements of the Standardized Field Sobriety Test, since the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) endorses it. It consists of three distinct tests. When these tests are used together, it is believed that they can indicate alcohol impairment 91 percent of the time.

What are the specific tests?

The Standardized Field Sobriety Test includes these three elements:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: This is nothing more than the involuntary jerking that naturally occurs when a person's eye moves to the side. However, when someone has been drinking alcohol, there is an exaggeration of the motion.
  • Walk and turn: Most sober people can do this without a problem. The driver will take nine steps, heel to toe, on a straight line. After moving in one direction, he or she will then turn and return down the line.
  • One leg stand: The driver is prompted to stand on one foot, with the other foot approximately six inches off the ground. Then he or she is asked to count to 30 while doing so, without hopping, putting a foot down on the ground, or swaying.

In the event that you fail the Standardized Field Sobriety Test, there's a good chance that the next step is a breathalyzer test. This is used to determine the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of a driver.

Not always a fair test

While there is no doubt that the Standardized Field Sobriety Test can be helpful in apprehending actual drunk drivers, it's important to note that many people cannot successfully complete all three of these tests. For example, you may take a prescription drug that makes it difficult for you to keep your balance. Or maybe you have a health condition that makes it nearly impossible to balance on one foot.

Every situation is different. Since there can be many gray areas and questions about a DUI arrest, you need to understand your legal rights to protect yourself from being improperly charged.

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