Understanding How the Police Assess Driver Drunkenness

Police officers routinely administer a system of tests when they pull over drivers suspected of driving while intoxicated (DWI). These are called Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs), created to evaluate the motorist’s physical and mental soundness.

Failing an FST theoretically confirms that the apprehended driver is indeed inebriated, and will face arrest and DWI charges in accordance with state laws. A police officer’s decision on whether to arrest the suspect driver will hinge on how that driver performs on the FST.

It’s important to know your rights just in case you find yourself the subject of a DWI stop. Here’s what you need to know about FSTs:

Standard FSTs

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) espouses that these three FSTs are reliable indicators of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in a person.

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
  • Walk and turn
  • One-leg stand

These tests commonly qualify as “standardized” FSTs. Further studies conducted by the NHTSA indicate that using all three tests correctly determined driver impairment. Officers receive standardized FST training to learn how these tests provide clues that indicate drunkenness in a person.

Improvised Tests

Some police officers implement “non-standardized” FSTs – techniques that the NHTSA deem not reliable for testing sobriety. These non-standard tests might include reciting the alphabet, counting backward, or a Rhomberg balance test.

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Courts usually reject the usage of non-standard FSTs during a DWI case as evidence, since they do not accurately indicate the suspect’s impairment. To contest cases like these, dntriallaw.com strongly suggests you immediately contact a DWI-experienced attorney. As DWI law varies by state, a local DWI lawyer can explain what the process entails and what defenses you can mount.

Always remember to never drink and drive, as the risks not only involve potential suspension or revocation of your license but the lives of fellow motorists as well. Nevertheless, it pays to know your rights by DWI law, just in case.