These are not really tests; rather, they are physical agility exercises that are subjective in nature.
Most people don’t realize that these tests are optional… and the officers who give them sure won’t tell you, but they are. You are perfectly free to politely refuse to take the Field Sobriety Tests in their entirety.
These “tests” may include the following:
- Nystagmus: The officer will position an object (such as a pen) 12 inches away from the driver’s face, and move the object from side to side while watching the subject’s eyes. The officer is looking for involuntary jerking or trembling of the eyeball. This jerking or trembling may be a sign that the subject has consumed an intoxicant.
- Walk and Turn: The subject takes nine heel-to-toe steps along a line, turns, and takes nine heel-to-toe steps back. The officer is looking to see if the accused can keep their balance, follow instructions, begin early, stop during the test, leave space between heel and toe, step off the line, or lose balance while turning.
- Standing on One Leg: The accused is instructed to stand with heels together, arms at the side, then raise one leg six inches off the ground while counting out loud until the officer allows the accused to stop. The officer is looking for raising of the arms, swaying, hopping, putting the foot down, inability to stand still, body tremors, muscle tension, and any statements made by the accused during the test.
- Finger to Nose: This test requires the suspect to place his or her feet together while standing straight with eyes closed, and bring the index finger to the nose as ordered by the officer. The officer is looking for body sway, body tremors, eyelid tremors, muscle tension, or any statements made by the accused to support a finding of intoxication.
- The Rhomberg Balance test: The accused assumes a position of attention, closes their eyes, tilts their head back, and estimates 30 seconds. The officer is looking for the inability to stand still or steady, body or eyelid tremors, opening eyes to maintain balance, swaying (either front to back or side to side), muscle tension, or statements made by the accused. The officer is also testing the suspect’s internal clock, which will usually be slow in the case of alcohol or depressants, or fast in the case of stimulants.
Other Field Sobriety Tests include finger tapping, hand-clapping, counting backward, or reciting the alphabet.
These are supposedly tests that are designed to check “divided attention”, a critical skill in operating a motor vehicle. However, there are many people who, for many innocent reasons, cannot perform these tests to the officer’s satisfaction, and pay the price with a D.U.I. arrest.
One of the most dangerous Field Sobriety Tests is the Preliminary Alcohol Screening test, also called the PAS test. This is a portable breath test to determine the presence of alcohol. The officer is supposed to advise the suspect that the test is voluntary. Many times, they do not.