Personal Attention.
Aggressive Defense.

Photo of Thomas C. Mooney

What is the purpose of a sobriety test?

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2023 | Drunk Driving

The police have to have some way to determine if a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol before they have probable cause to make an arrest and DUI charge. While the police may look for signals that a driver is impaired, such as erratic driving, the odor of alcohol on their breath and other key observations, that’s not always enough to warrant an arrest.

Instead, the police may use a couple of tools to determine if a driver is drunk. More popularly known is the breath test, a small, radio-sized machine that tests the blood-alcohol content (BAC) of a driver – if the BAC is 0.08% or higher, may result in a DUI. But, the other, lesser-known tool the police may use is a standardized field sobriety test (SFST).

As stated above, both a breath test and SFSTs help officers determine if a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A breath test is fairly straightforward: the more alcohol a person consumes, the higher their BAC and the less likely they should be driving. However, many people don’t entirely understand how SFSTs work. Here’s what you should know:

How do standardized field sobriety tests work?

There are three commonly used standardized field sobriety tests. Here’s what an officer may have a driver perform:

  1. Horizontal gaze test
  2. Walk-and-turn test
  3. One-legged stand test

In all of these tests, the police are looking for signs of intoxication. The police may notice the driver stumble while they walk, fail to follow instructions or have difficulties focusing. While the police may ask the driver to perform SFSTs, drivers still have the choice to decline them without penalties (unlike a breath test) – and that’s generally the wisest move. 

Otherwise, the driver may face severe criminal charges, fines and incarceration without understanding their rights. A simple mistake shouldn’t turn into a disaster. If you’ve been charged, find out more about your legal options.