Roadside Sobriety Tests

When you’ve been pulled over by a police officer and he or she suspects you may have been drinking, you may be asked to step out of your vehicle to participate in a roadside sobriety test. While an option is usually never given, you may decline to participate in these tests. It is also of note that in Tennessee, Standardized Field Sobriety Testing can only be used to elevate suspicion of DUI and not negate it. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Of course, as attorneys, we never get to hear the stories of people who pass them and are let go.

Roadside Sobriety TestsThere are 3 field sobriety tests that are standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, the first test given by officers, horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) is not admissible in Tennessee courts. HGN is more commonly known as the “they made me follow some pen with my eyes” test. Here officers are looking for involuntary jerking of the eyes at various speeds and positions.

The two most common field sobriety tests used in Tennessee to determine an individual’s level of intoxication are the “walk and turn” and “one-leg stand” tests. Here is what you can expect from each if asked to perform them during a traffic stop.

Walk & Turn Test

You will be asked to take 9 steps heel-to-toe- in a straight line with your arms at your sides, then turn on one foot and repeat the process in the opposite direction. During this test the officer will be watching for:

  • Failure to maintain balance while listening to the instructions
  • Failure to maintain the heel-to-toe position before and/or during the test
  • Failure to maintain a straight line while walking
  • Starting before being told to begin
  • Stopping while walking
  • Leaving space between the heel and toe while walking
  • Using arms to balance
  • Removing the front foot from the line while turning
  • Taking the incorrect number of steps

One-Leg Stand Test

You will be asked to stand on one leg with the other foot raised about 6 inches off the ground, and to begin counting from 1,001 (i.e. 1,001, 1,002, etc.) until you are instructed to put your foot back down. This test usually lasts for about 30 seconds, during which time the officer will be watching for:

  • Swaying while balancing
  • Using the arms to maintain balance
  • Hopping to maintain balance
  • Putting the foot back down before being told to do so

If it is determined that you have failed one or more of these tests, you may be placed under arrest and the failed test(s) may be used as evidence against you in court.

If you have been charged with a DUI, call the law office of Best and Brock to speak with an experienced DUI defense attorney today.

***The above information is related to Tennessee law and does not necessarily apply to Georgia***