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How do field sobriety tests work? Part 1

Field sobriety tests work by putting your mind and body through a series of exercises designed to test your coordination, attention and focus. If you fail the test, the presumption is that you were impaired and are then subject to arrest. There are three types of field sobriety tests: horizontal gaze, the walk-and-turn and the one-leg stand. This post will briefly review each type and how they are administered.

The horizontal gaze test examines your ability to follow an object smoothly with your eye. The arresting officer is specifically watching your nystagmus. A nystagmus occurs when your eye involuntarily jerks to the side when it is rotated at high peripheral angles. The arresting officer watches for three things. First, if you are unable to follow the object smoothly. Second, if your eye begins to jerk too soon. And third, if the jerking is too distinct. It is estimated that the horizontal gaze test accurately identifies 77 percent of drunk drivers.

During a walk-and-turn test, the officer is testing your ability to walk in a straight line and follow directions. Specifically, the officer is watching for nine distinct mannerisms. If you walk before instructions are completed, if you are unable to walk heel to toe, lose your balance or use your arms to maintain balance or if you take the incorrect number of steps. The officer is also watching to ensure you turn on only one foot (per the instructions) or if you are unable to maintain balance while awaiting instructions. It is estimated that if you fail two of the requirements, there is a 68 percent probability you are legally intoxicated.

These tests must be administered in a specific manner. If you were arrested for drunk driving following a field sobriety test, then you may want to call a defense attorney. These tests present plenty of opportunities for attorneys to investigate and confirm that the arresting officer properly respected your rights. Developing defense strategies takes time. Therefore, it is best to begin preparing as soon as possible.

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