Field Sobriety Tests

Field Sobriety Tests

Utah law does not require drivers to participate in the Field Sobriety Tests even if an officer pulls you over and requests that you take the tests. Don’t get this confused with breath or blood tests. If you refuse a chemical test you are facing at least an 18 month suspension of your driver license.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sets forth criteria by which officers obtain clues to help determine whether a person is impaired. The widely accepted field sobriety tests are Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, Nine Step Walk-and-Turn, and the One-Leg Stand. A person is NOT REQUIRED to submit to field sobriety tests. These tests are merely a way for officers to create probable cause to have you submit to a chemical test.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

Officers do the HGN test when they hold up a pen or their finger and ask the person to follow the object with their eyes while not moving their head. The HGN test measures involuntary jerking of the eye. This jerking occurs naturally when your eyes strain to look to the side. The HGN tests for unnatural jerking caused by alcohol. The HGN test is the most accurate test of the three field sobriety tests. However, the HGN is only 88% accurate and is susceptible to false positives in a variety of situations.

Nine Step Walk-and Turn

The Nine Step Walk and Turn is a “divided attention” test. This means that the test divides a person’s attention between the mental task of understanding specific instructions and the physical task of following the instructions perfectly. The officer will instruct a person to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, in a straight line. The person is then required to pivot on one foot and return along the straight line in the same manner.   During this test the officer will look for clues that the person is intoxicated such as swaying, raising arms to balance, stepping off the line, not touching heel-to-toe, hesitating to regain balance, and making an improper turn.

One-Leg Stand

The One-Leg Stand is also a divided attention test. During this test the officer will give instructions to stand with one foot raised six inches off the ground with the leg straight and hands at your side while counting aloud by thousands (one one-thousand, two one-thousand) until told to put the foot down. The officer will time the person for 30 seconds and look for clues that the person is intoxicated such as swaying, raising arms to balance, hopping, and dropping the foot.

Salt Lake City Field Sobriety Test DUI Attorney

The DUI Attorneys at Intermountain Legal will examine the police report to find any mistakes the arresting officer made while administering these tests. They will also conduct a comprehensive interview with you to determine any other circumstances that could influence the test results.