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What are standardized field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Apr 21, 2021 | DUI

When pulled over for a routine traffic stop, the officer may ask you to take a field sobriety test. They will likely do this if they have reason to believe you were driving while under the influence.

They will likely give you a standardized field sobriety test first. So what should you know about these tests? How do they work and how much of an impact can they have on you?

The issue of officer bias

VeryWell Mind talks about the purpose of field sobriety tests. In general, they act as a first line of testing when an officer suspects that someone has driven under the influence. It is less invasive than a blood or breath analysis test. Because of that, it is often easier for officers to get people to cooperate.

Field sobriety tests are not a scientific tool of measurement, though. In fact, a major known issue is that officer bias can easily affect the results of these tests. To help cut down on said bias, standardized field sobriety tests came into being. These tests have a unified rubric that all officers across the country should use. Theoretically, this would reduce the amount of impact an officer’s bias can have in measuring the results.

Types of standardized tests

Because of this standardization, there are only three types of standardized field sobriety tests. They include the walk and turn, the one-legged stand and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. Each examines a person’s balance, dexterity and ability to comprehend and follow instructions.

But if you fail this test, it is not the end of the road. Courts still view results with a grain of salt due to the potential of bias, so they are not used heavily as evidence.