An overview of field sobriety tests in DUI stops

| Dec 15, 2020 | Dui/dwi

Each year hundreds of people are arrested in New Jersey and charged with driving under the influence. DUI is one of the most common criminal charges. However, our readers should remember that an arrest is not the same as a conviction. Prosecutors have a high bar to meet in order to secure a conviction: proving guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” As in all legal cases, DUI cases hinge on evidence. And, in DUI cases, the results of field sobriety tests are oftentimes crucial evidence.

The three common field sobriety tests

In general, there are three common field sobriety tests that are conducted at traffic stops in which law enforcement officials suspect a driver of being under the influence of alcohol. The tests are commonly referred to as the “horizontal gaze nystagmus” test, the “walk and turn” test and the “one-leg stand” test.

Horizontal gaze nystagmus test

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test, although it sounds quite scientific, is probably more easily recognized as the “follow the tip of my pen with your eyes” test. In this test, law enforcement officials will typically hold a pen in front of the suspect’s eyes and move the pen back and forth, asking the suspect to follow the tip of the pen using only eye movement. The law enforcement official watches the suspect’s eyes for involuntary jerking that can occur when a person is intoxicated.

Walk and turn and the one-leg stand tests

In the walk and turn test, the suspect is asked to walk along a straight line, heel to toe, and then turn and walk back. In the one-leg stand test, the suspect is asked to stand still, with one leg raised, for a specific amount of time. In both of these tests law enforcement officials are watching for a lack of balance or an inability to follow specific instructions.


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