Search Site
Menu
Field sobriety tests in New York State

If a New York State law enforcement officer stops you on suspicion of DWI, he or she may ask you to take a field sobriety test.

As during the rest of your interactions with police officers, remain polite. However, you do have the right to refuse to take these tests or to answer questions such as where you are coming from and whether you had anything to drink. You have the right to refuse a field sobriety test in New York, though this refusal is admissible in court. The tests can be subjective and people can fail for many reasons besides intoxication. For these reasons, if you did perform and fail the test, you may have grounds to challenge the results.

The Standardized Field Sobriety Test

Most often, police officers use the Standardized Field Sobriety Test, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration developed in the 1970s. To qualify for administering the SFST, police officers must complete a required training course. There are three parts to the test.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

The horizontal gaze nystagmus assesses whether nystagmus – an involuntary eye motion – is present at an increased level that can indicate alcohol consumption. Police officers ask the driver to follow a moving object with his or her eyes. The officer moves a small object, such as a pen, at various speeds and in various directions. Only the officer administering the test can observe the driver’s eye motion.

Walk and Turn

The walk and turn test involves walking in a straight line, putting one foot in front of the other, heel to toe. The driver must keep his or her arms at the side and count the steps aloud. Lack of balance, miscounting the steps or failing to follow any of the detailed instructions all count against the driver.

One Leg Stand

Finally, the one-leg stand test requires the driver to stand with one foot up until the police officer says to put it down; generally, this is a period of 30 seconds, but the officer will typically not state this.

Failing the SFST does not have to mean a conviction

It is not hard to think of reasons other than intoxication why a person could fail one or all of these tests. Performance is also judged based on following instructions, which may be hard to hear on the side of a busy road. Various medical conditions, uncomfortable shoes and a high level of nervousness are all common reasons people fail the SFST. As a DWI conviction can have serious consequences, fighting these allegations may be necessary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

James L. Riotto Attorney Photo
James L. Riotto
Criminal Defense Lawyer

James L. Riotto is an accomplished criminal defense attorney serving clients in New York. With an extensive background in law enforcement and criminal prosecution, his approach to each case is unique and informed by years of experience with the New York criminal justice system. As a graduate from Albany Law School and before going on to start his own practice, James worked at the Albany County District Attorney's Office, where he helped prosecute many DWI offenses. His inside knowledge of the tactics used to gain convictions provides him with a particular advantage when defending against DUI and other criminal charges.

Adam Staier Attorney Photo
Adam Staier
Of Counsel

About Attorney Adam Staier has spent the last seven years practicing criminal defense law throughout upstate New York and the Capital Region. He began his legal career through internships in civil law, indigent legal representation and federal energy law regulation. Finding a passion in criminal law, Mr. Staier held internships handling both prosecution and defense…

  • What to do if pulled over for a DUI


    How to deal with a DWI traffic stop

    How you handle getting pulled over for a DUI/DWI can significantly affect your defense down the road. For instance, declining the officer's request to search your vehicle and avoiding specific answers when asked about any substances you may have consumed could help you when combating DUI/DWI charges in court.
    READ MORE
Reviews and Ratings
  • lawyers
    5.0/5.0

    Mr. Riotto is extremely knowledgeable, experienced, and skilled as a criminal defense attorney. If you ever find yourself in legal trouble, James is unquestionably the person you need to call.

    Read more

    Attorney

  • lawyers
    5.0/5.0

    Jim is an extremely competent attorney. He is careful to protect the rights and interests of his clients. I have been fortunate enough to act as local counsel to Jim, for his clients with cases in the geographic area near my office. Jim always obt...

    Read more

    Attorney

  • google
    5.0/5.0

    Great law office with very fair rates! James Riotto and his legal team helped me out with my case. They were incredibly informative, kept me in the loop, and fought for my rights. I am very satisfied with the outcome of the matter, and would recom...

    Read more

    Lauren K.

  • yelp
    5.0/5.0

    I hired Jim Riotto when I was pulled over for doing 55 in a 30, in Monroe County. From the time I called him to the time he got me his amazing result, he had me well informed the whole way and could not have been better. I really appreciate everythin...

    Read more

    Patrick C.

  • google
    5.0/5.0

    Mr. Riotto and his staff were such a great help for my family. Very professional, patient and kind. Thanks so much for all you do.

    Read more

    cassidy osborne

See all reviews
Contact us

Quick Contact Form