If law enforcement sees a driver exhibiting behaviors that could indicate impaired driving, the officer has valid grounds to pull the vehicle over. At the start of a suspected drunk driving traffic stop, a Minnesota officer may speak with the driver in order to determine what steps should follow. If there is reason to suspect the driver may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may conduct field sobriety tests.
Field sobriety tests are tasks designed with the intention of measuring a driver’s physical capabilities. The tests gauge cognition, mental clarity, ability to follow directions, balance, eyesight and more. If a driver does not pass any of these standardized tests, he or she may be asked by law enforcement to submit to a chemical test. The administration of field sobriety tests must be consistent and appropriate.
The Standard Field Sobriety Test
The Standard Field Sobriety Test is a battery of three tests designed with the intention of allowing an officer to determine within a reasonable degree of certainty if a driver is impaired. When administered correctly, these tests are proven to be accurate and admissible in court. The three tests included with the SFST include:
- Walk-and-turn test – During this test, the officer will ask the driver to take nine steps, stepping heel to toe in a straight line, then return to the starting point repeating the number of steps heel to toe. The officer looks for adherence to the directions, balance, taking the correct number of steps and more.
- Horizontal nystagmus test – During this test, the officer will ask a driver to follow a moving object, such as a pen, with his or her eyes while standing still. A jerking of the eyes could indicate impairment.
- One-leg stand test – During this test, the officer will ask a driver to balance on one foot with the other approximately six inches from the ground. The driver will then count until the officer says to stop. The officer looks for balance problems, swaying, using the arms and more.
If you are facing drunk driving charges, it is important to carefully review every aspect of your interactions with law enforcement. If there was a problem with the administration of your field sobriety tests or you experienced a violation of your rights, you could have grounds to challenge the entire case against you. An assessment of your case will determine the most appropriate way forward as you develop a defense strategy.