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How are field sobriety tests administered?

It is Saturday night, and a Washingtonian decide to go out with friends for dinner and some live music. Next thing they know, the clock is striking midnight and they had a couple drinks too many. Even worse, better judgement left the bar a few hours ago and they decide to drive home. No problem, right? Halfway home, they see lights ahead and all the cars are slowing down. It is a DUI checkpoint, and they know they are over the legal limit.

The police officer sees them with slightly glazed over eyes, and the all-too-familiar smell of alcohol on their breath. The Washingtonian gets out of the car and the officer begins a series of field sobriety tests to determine whether they are driving while impaired. What are the traditional field sobriety tests the officer may perform?

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has endorsed the Standardized Field Sobriety Test, consisting of three parts: the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, the Walk and Turn and the One-Leg Stand. The human eye has an involuntary jerking when gazing from side to side, but this may be exaggerated for someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The Walk and Turn may be the most commonly known of the three tests, and involves taking nine steps in a straight line, walking toe to heel and then turning around and returning. The last of the three tests is the One-leg Stand, and simply involves standing on one leg with the other leg six inches off the ground for thirty seconds.

When facing drunk driving charges, it is important to prepare before entering the courts. A guilty verdict could lead to serious and expensive charges that could affect one's future. If facing such charges, one may want to speak with a lawyer familiar with drunk driving charges to see if any options are available.

Source:, "Field Sobriety Tests," accessed on April 24, 2017

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