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Do you understand the Standardized Field Sobriety Test?

As a driver, you know you should never drink alcohol and then get behind the wheel of your vehicle. Even though you understand the dangers of this decision, it's not out of the question that you could be pulled over by law enforcement officers who think you might have been driving drunk.

If an officer pulls you over for suspicion of driving under the influence, it's important to understand what will come next.

There is no guarantee that the officer will ask you to step outside of your vehicle, but if he or she believes you have been drinking, this is likely to happen.

The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) is endorsed by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration and consists of three distinct tests:

  • Walk and turn - The purpose of the walk and turn is to test your ability to complete more than one task at the same time. You will take nine steps, heel to toe, all while keeping on a straight line. After the ninth step, you'll turn on one foot and then do the same in the opposite direction.
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus - When the eyes move from side to side there is an involuntary jerking motion. However, if a person is under the influence of alcohol, this motion may appear exaggerated.
  • One-leg stand - This is exactly what it sounds like: You are asked to stand on one leg, while counting to 30. When doing so, you are not permitted to use your arms to balance or jump up and down.

If police have reason to believe you are under the influence, they may request that you complete one or more of these tests.

Even someone who is 100 percent sober may have a difficult time passing these tests. For example, if you are older, injured, ill or in any way not at your best, you may find it difficult to balance on one foot even when you are 100 percent sober.

Since there is some gray area with regard to the Standardized Field Sobriety Test, including the proper administration and interpretation of results, it's imperative to understand your legal rights and the defense strategy you can use to increase the likelihood of avoiding a conviction.

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