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What are the standard field sobriety tests used in Maryland?

If Maryland police pull you over because they suspect you of driving under the influence of alcohol or some other substance, the officer may ask you to participate in a few tests to check for impairment. Field sobriety tests check for physical ability and mental concentration. Both of these things tend to be lacking in intoxicated drivers.

There are only three standardized field sobriety tests that the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration recognizes. What are they? Do you have to participate if asked?

Test number one: The one-leg stand

When performing the one-leg stand, you'll plant your feet in a spot then raise one foot until it reaches roughly six inches from the ground. With your foot in the air, you have to show the officer administering the test that you can maintain your balance without:

  • Using your arms
  • Swaying
  • Hopping 
  • Putting your foot back to the ground 

Failing to keep your balance or follow directions means failing the test. 

Test number two: The walk and turn

When performing the walk and turn, you walk a straight line, heel to toe, for a certain number of steps. Then you turn and walk back to your starting position following the same guidelines. You are not permitted to: 

  • Use your arms
  • Sway
  • Hop 
  • Do anything else to help you maintain balance. 

Again, failing to follow directions or keep your balance means failing the test. 

Test number three: The horizontal gaze nystagmus

The HGN is different in the fact that the only body part you move is your eyes. During this test, the administering officer will ask you to follow an object, such as a pen or even a finger, with your eyes. As you look up and down, side to side, your eyes naturally make a jerking motion. Impairment supposedly exaggerates the jerking motion.

Is participation mandatory?

You have every right to refuse when asked to participate in field sobriety testing. In no way does refusing imply guilt. Just know that there may be consequences for choosing not to comply.

What to do if you fail or refuse?

If you failed or chose to refuse testing and are ultimately charged with impaired driving, you have every right to defend yourself. Various defense strategies may work in your case that might help you achieve a case dismissal, reduction in charges or alternative sentencing.

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