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Understand the standardized field sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Oct 21, 2019 | Firm News |

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drug is illegal in Washington. If law enforcement officers pull you over for driving erratically, they may request you perform field sobriety tests. Although these tests are not mandatory, officers generally arrest those who decline. At Hansen Law, PLLC, we understand that collateral consequences of a drunk driving conviction can have a huge and lasting impact on your life. Our DUI attorneys have experience working for the best possible resolution to the situation.

According to, field sobriety tests help police establish probable cause for an arrest. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has protocols for administering the three standardized tests together. Police officers provide instruction and demonstration for the one-leg stand and walk and turn test before asking you to do the same.

The one-leg stand test requires that you raise one leg approximately six inches off the ground with your foot parallel to the ground. With hands out to the sides, you must focus on your foot while counting until the officer requests that you stop. Swaying, putting your foot down and swinging your arms to keep your balance are clues that indicate impairment.

For the walk and turn test, you must take nine heel-to-toe steps forward, pivot, and take the same steps back, in a straight line. Throughout the process, arms are at your sides, and your focus is on your feet. Losing your balance, stepping off the “line,” and taking the wrong number of steps results in failing the test.

Officers who administer the horizontal gaze nystagmus test evaluate your eyes for equal tracking and pupil size. You must follow an object, held by the officer, with your eyes while keeping your head still. If law enforcement observes jerking movement in the eyes or any three of six standard clues, he or she may arrest you for drunk driving.

There are a variety of reasons you may not pass these tests. An experienced attorney can prepare your defense and help reduce or eliminate charges. Visit our webpage for more information on this topic.