The facts about field sobriety tests
When a Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy or Mesa police officer pulls over a driver on suspicion of drinking and driving, their goal is to gather as much evidence as possible against the driver to justify an arrest for DUI. Whatever else they might tell you, that is the purpose of everything they order you to do, such as field sobriety tests.
Common field sobriety tests used in Arizona
Field sobriety tests are physical actions that an officer asks a driver to perform during a traffic stop. Their stated purpose is to help the officer determine if the driver is legally impaired. Common field sobriety tests used by Arizona law enforcement include:
- Walk-and-turn test, where the officer orders you to walk several feet away, turn around and walk back, while following a straight line, often the painted line separating the road from the shoulder
- Nystagmus test, or eye test, where the officer tells you to follow their finger with your eyes as they pass it in front of your face. The eyes of a person impaired by alcohol are more likely to jerk when moving from side to side
- Romber test, in which you are required to stand with your eyes closed and your feet together and count to 30 seconds
These and other tests are meant to check for signs of intoxication, such as poor balance or coordination, that could indicate drinking and driving. The walk-and-turn test and eye test are called standardized tests, because they are endorsed by the National HIghway Traffic Safety Administration.
These tests are not foolproof
Keep in mind that these tests are not scientific. It is up to the police officer, with whatever level of training and experience they have, to decide if you have “passed.” Also, things like the subject’s weight and age can affect their ability to perform. So can a possible disability or side effects of a legally prescribed medication.
If you were arrested for DUI based on field sobriety tests, your defense attorney may be able to find flaws in how the arresting officer administered those tests, and thus show how the results were inaccurate. No matter what the circumstances of your arrest were, talk to your lawyer before pleading guilty.