Criminal defense: How prepared are you for a field sobriety test?

Griffin Law, PLLC
Sep 14, 2020

When a North Carolina police officer makes a traffic stop, it sometimes leads to a suspected drunk driving arrest. Before an arrest is made, however, the officer in question might ask the driver to take a field sobriety test. Drivers are not obligated to comply with such requests, and there are no legal or administrative penalties for refusal.

However, many drivers think it is best to cooperate and to take a field sobriety test if a police officer requests it during a traffic stop. There are several types of field sobriety tests. It is helpful to understand how each test works in order to make an informed decision as to whether compliance would be the best course of action in a particular situation.

The one-leg stance test helps a police officer determine if a driver is able to balance on one leg. He or she will usually be given a second task while performing this action, such as counting out loud by 1000s or something similar. Another field sobriety test involving balance and agility observations is the walk-and-turn test. This test requires the participant to walk a straight line with arms outstretched at shoulder length, placing the heel of one foot at the toes of the other.

A police officer will typically give a short list of instructions before the test begins. Part of the test is actually to observe whether the driver in question can remember and carry out the instructions. There is a field sobriety test that measures eye movements, as well. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test can be used to determine whether a person’s eyeballs erratically quiver before reaching his or her maximum peripheral vision point. Intoxication from alcohol often causes a person’s eyes to shake before reaching this point. A person may request to speak with a North Carolina attorney to discuss criminal defense options when necessary.

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