What you should know about field sobriety tests for DUI

On Behalf of | Jul 24, 2023 | DUI

It is standard practice for police to ask you to participate in field sobriety testing after pulling you over on suspicion of DUI.

Knowing what that means and your rights can potentially protect you from unwarranted consequences.

Types of field sobriety tests

There are three types of standardized field sobriety tests used by Pennsylvania law enforcement:

  1. Horizontal gaze nystagmus tests your ability to follow an object with your eyes only.
  2. The walk and turn test requires you to walk heel-to-toe in a straight line for several steps and turn around without losing balance.
  3. The one-leg stand test entails standing on one foot with the other six inches above the ground, holding the pose while counting to 30.

Police may also use non-standardized tests, such as the finger-to-nose test and reciting the alphabet, to collect further evidence of intoxication at the scene.

Issues with field sobriety tests

The problem with all field sobriety testing is that the correlation between the test results and blood alcohol content is imperfect. Officers can make mistakes when giving instructions, and some tests, such as the one-leg stand, are naturally challenging for some people.

Implied consent in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law mandates implied consent for chemical testing, such as breath and urine tests, for a DUI stop, but that does not extend to field sobriety testing. You have the right to refuse non-chemical testing to protect yourself.

Refusing field sobriety tests will likely still result in an arrest, but you will have a chance to argue your case in court without that evidence against you.