Law enforcement is required to perform several actions on drivers suspected of drunk driving during a traffic stop. Firstly, they’ll likely ask a few questions such as “do you know why I’m pulling you over,” “have you been drinking” and “where were you planning on going” as well as asking for the driver’s license and registration. Then, typically, the police will ask the driver to perform a sobriety test.
It’s common practice for the police to use a sobriety test on suspected drunk drivers. However, the police may also ask the driver to undergo a standardized field sobriety test, which is a kind of physical evaluation. There 3 kinds of standardized field sobriety tests you should know about:
Horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN)
A horizontal gaze nystagmus test consists of having the driver focus on a finger, pen or light. The officer should ask the driver to focus only with their eyes and without moving their head. After the officer moves the focus point around, then they’ll evaluate the driver’s eye movement. If the police notice the driver’s eyes were slow or they couldn’t stay focused, then they may suspect the driver of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Walk-and-turn test (WAT)
The police may ask the driver to perform a walk-and-turn test. A WAT test requires the driver to walk in a straight line, likely on the side of the road, then stop and walk back to where they started. The police are likely evaluating the driver’s movements and watching to see if they were off-balance.
One-legged stand test (OLS)
Finally, the driver may be asked by the police to stand on one leg. Like the WAT test, the officer is likely watching their balance. If the driver falls over or can’t lift their leg, they may then face a driving under the influence (DUI) charge.
The police may also perform non-standardized field sobriety tests (NSFST), which may include saying the alphabet backward or putting a finger on the nose. Drivers should understand their legal rights, such as understanding that they can refuse an SFST without facing penalties.