Information of Field Sobriety Tests

Motorists suspected of driving under the influence are often requested to perform a series of roadside tests to allow law enforcement to establish probable cause to make an arrest. The first thing to understand about such tests is that performance of them is entirely voluntary and there is no consequence to your license for refusing to attempt to perform them. If an actual arrest is made, refusal to submit a breath or blood test will results in license consequences, and probably a license suspension, but refusal to perform any roadside agility tests will not.

Based on the fact that these tests are, as many commentators have put it, "designed for failure," it is not recommended that anyone attempt to perform them.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has approved three (3) standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs). They are the Walk & Turn, One Leg Stand and Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. Although some officers continue to utilize other tests, most of which cannot even be considered voodoo science, the three tests listed above are the only ones approved in Georgia. Interestingly enough, NHTSA analyzed the laboratory test data and found:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, by itself, was 77% accurate.
  • Walk and Turn, by itself, was 68% accurate.
  • One Leg Stand, by itself, was 65% accurate.*

Since officers attach so much weight to their conclusion that a driver has "failed" one or more of these tests, which even NHTSA acknowledges are 77% accurate at best, there is no good reason to comply with an officer's request to attempt to perform them.

* February 2006 DUI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing - Student Manual


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