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How are field sobriety tests conducted?

Getting caught up in a drunk driving situation is not something anyone desires. Unfortunately, mistakes are sometimes made that result in law enforcement conducting various tests to determine if an individual is indeed inebriated.

In an effort for law officers to determine whether an accused driver is driving while impaired, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studied and formed a three-part Standard Field Sobriety Test. The first part of the test is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. A sober person’s eyes typically will involuntarily jerk when gazing from side to side. But under the influence of alcohol, one’s jerking may become noticeably exaggerated.

Alcohol also lessens one’s mobility skills. The second part of the test is the walk and turn test. A suspected drunk driver may be asked to take thirty steps in a straight line, walking heel to toe, then turn around and return. This may prove to be difficult for someone who has been drinking. Last is the one-leg stand. A suspected drunk driver may then be asked to stand on one for with the other foot six inches off the ground for thirty seconds. One’s balance may be compromised while drinking, and this could be another sign of intoxication.

If you find yourself facing drunk driving charges, it is important to remember that the ramifications from a guilty verdict may affect your life for not just days or months, but possibly years. Aside from the inconvenience of a suspended license, fines, insurance surcharges and the possibility of time in prison, your criminal record may also affect the jobs you can get in the future.

Source: AAA, “Standardized Field Sobriety Test,” Accessed on July 11, 2017

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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.

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