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What are standard and nonstandard field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2022 | Blog, Drunk Driving-DUI Charges

A field sobriety test allows an officer in Edwardsville, Illinois to check suspected drunk drivers for intoxication. The NHTSA makes three tests standard, but officers may use nonstandard sobriety tests.

Standard field sobriety tests

Sometimes, the condition of the eyes is a strong indicator of drunk driving, so an officer will check them. They test the eyes with the horizontal nystagmus gaze test, which requires the driver to follow an object such as a pen. The officer watches for the smooth pursuit of the object, following directions, and involuntary blinking at 45 degrees.

The walk-and-turn test asks the driver to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, in a straight line in both directions and to turn on one leg. The officer checks for cues, such as the driver using arms to balance, listening ability, or getting off center.

The one-leg stand test requires the driver to hold one foot six inches off the ground and balance for 30 seconds. The officer watches them for swaying, hopping, balancing with their arms and putting their foot down before being told to do so.

Non-standard field sobriety tests

The Romberg balance test requires the driver to stand with both feet together, tilt the head back, and wait 30 seconds. When they think 30 seconds have passed, they raise their head, open their eyes, and say “stop”. Some cues include the accuracy of timer passage, swaying, body and eyelid tremors, and sounds made during the test.

A common nonstandard test is the finger-to-nose, which has the driver tilt their head back and touch the nose with fingers. The officer watches for balance, depth perception, if they are able to hold the finger in place, and how well they listen. Some other non-standard tests include counting backward from ten, reciting the alphabet, and guessing how many fingers the officer holds up.

Drivers are seldom penalized for refusing to take field sobriety tests in Indiana. However, since sober drivers may fail them, the driver can challenge them with some valid defenses.