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Understanding sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Dec 28, 2023 | DWI |

When the police pull over drivers who are suspected of drunk driving, they have several tools to gather evidence. The police often start by asking questions hoping that a driver will admit to drinking. Alternatively, they may see an open bottle of alcohol as a clear sign of drunk driving. 

When these options don’t work, law enforcement may ask drivers to perform sobriety tests. These tests evaluate the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). BAC is the amount of alcohol absorbed in the body at the time of testing.

There are several kinds of sobriety tests. Here’s what you should know about each:

What are standardized field sobriety tests?

The police may begin by asking the driver to perform a standardized field sobriety test (SFST). There are typically three kinds of SFST: a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, a one-legged stand test and a walk-and-turn test. These kinds of tests are a form of physical examination, which is evaluated by the police’s best judgment.

While the police may have drivers perform SFSTs, they aren’t the only option. The police can evaluate drivers with non-standardized field sobriety tests, which can include anything. For example, a driver may be asked to spell words backward to prove their sobriety. 

What are chemical sobriety tests?

SFSTs are not always accurate. The police have the option to test drivers with chemical sobriety tests. These tests include urine, blood and breath tests. Breath tests are often the most accessible because the police can carry these testing devices. Out of the three chemical sobriety tests, however, blood tests are often the most accurate and urine tests are the least. 

The police can violate drivers’ legal rights during traffic stops. It may help drivers to reach out for legal help as they consider their defense options.