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What are some common field sobriety tests?

Hearing a police siren and seeing the flashing red and blue lights in your rear-view mirror can make anyone in Washoe County nervous. This is especially true if the officer accuses you of drunk driving. When this is the case, the officer may ask that you perform a field sobriety test.

There are three standard field sobriety tests: the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. In most states, the person's failing of any one of these tests can be admitted into court as evidence if there is a trial. Research on the subject suggests that, with proper training, such tests can identify drunk drivers more than 90 percent of the time.

In the one-leg stand test, a person must raise one foot and count aloud. The person's foot must be around six inches from the ground, and then the person counts starting at 1,000. The test lasts 30 seconds. The officer will look for certain clues, including swaying, using one's arms to keep from falling over, hopping or placing the raised foot back on the ground.

In the walk-and-turn test, a person must walk in a straight line, heel-to-toe, nine times. After that, the person must turn around and do the same thing in the other direction. The officer will look for certain clues, such as trouble keeping balance, being unable to walk heel-to-toe, taking the wrong number of steps or stepping outside the straight line, among others.

In the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the officer will look for the jerking of the eyes when the person looks from side to side. This jerking is involuntary. If a person is intoxicated, they may find it difficult to smoothly follow a moving object, such as a flashlight.

While these tests may be admitted to the court as evidence, that doesn't mean they're fool-proof. In fact, they are quite subjective. It is up to the officer performing them to determine if the driver passes them. Moreover, if the officer is not properly trained in these tests, it could lead to faulty results. Also, a person could be under a lot of pressure when performing these tests, leading to mistakes even if they are sober. Therefore, those who were charged with drunk driving after failing these tests may want to seek legal advice from a criminal defense attorney, to determine how to counter these charges.

Source: DUI Justice Link, "Standardized Field Sobriety Tests," Accessed Sept. 25, 2017

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