Field Sobriety Tests

Georgia Field Sobriety Tests

Pop Quiz: What do you really know about field sobriety tests?

From making you recite the alphabet backwards to other silly tasks, police officers use field sobriety tests to help determine whether or not a person is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol while driving. While there is a plethora of field sobriety tests police officers give, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has approved three: the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), the Walk and Turn, and the One Leg Stand. Georgia police officers often use these three field sobriety tests when DUI is suspected.

Before a police officer can ask you to perform a field sobriety test, there must be a reasonable, articulable suspicion of wrongdoing to stop your vehicle. If the officer suspects you of drinking, he or she may ask you to perform a field sobriety test. You do not have to perform this test; it is optional. However, as a practical matter, if you refuse field sobriety testing, you WILL be arrested and your license will be suspended for a period of one year. If you agree to take the test, the officer should make sure that you are physically able, are under 65 years of age and you are not more than 50 pounds overweight. The officer must also ask you to perform the test in a safe, well-light area on a hard, dry surface. If you are wearing heels more than 2” high, you should be allowed to remove them before taking the test.


During this test, the officer will ask you to follow a stimulus (such as a lighted pen) with your eyes in order to detect nystagmus (involuntary jerking of the eyes). He will look for three clues – lack of smooth pursuit, nystagmus at maximum deviation, and onset before 45 degrees. Nystagmus can be brought on by alcohol consumption. However, many people suffer from a natural nystagmus, and there are dozens of other causes, which is why the HGN test is not scientific proof that you were under the influence.

The Walk and Turn

In this type of test, you’ll be asked to follow an imaginary line or the white line on the shoulder. You’ll have to walk nine heel-to-toe steps, then turn around, and walk back in the same manner.

The One Leg Stand

The officer will ask you to raise one foot six inches off the ground and count out loud for 30 seconds. Like the Walk and Turn test, you cannot use your arms for balance or sway side to side.

If you were given a field sobriety test and you were arrested for DUI, contact experienced defense attorney Holly Veal. Police must follow protocol when administering your field sobriety tests!