Most drivers who are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) do not realize the field sobriety test is voluntary. The police are also not required to tell you this; in fact, they may even try to intimidate or coerce you into to submitting to a test.
What is the field sobriety test?
Most police officers use a field sobriety test which is comprised of three tests: HGN or Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, the one leg stand test, and the walk and turn test.
Horizontal Gaze Test
The Horizontal Gaze test is performed by the officer who will ask you to follow a stimulus like a pen or finger as he moves it from side to side approximately 15 inches from your face. The officer is observing whether your eyes tracks the stimulus smoothly and accurately, whether your eyes begin twitching prior to the eye reaching a forty-five degree angle from the nose, and whether there is twitching at maximum deviation.
Unfortunately, this test is not always accurate because there are others factors which may cause your eye to twitch including natural nystagmus, strobe lights, and sudden changes in heat and cold.
One leg stand tests
The one leg stand tests is used to test your ability to divide your attention between different tasks, a skill a non-intoxicated person can do rather easily, but one that a drunk person may not be able to do.
In the one leg stand test the officer will ask you to stand with your feet together and your hands at your side. Then you will be asked to raise one of your feet approximately six inches off the ground while you count to thirty by one thousands. The officer is observing to see if you can stand without losing your balance, you can count, and you can keep your hands to your sides.
Unfortunately, while this test may suggest intoxication, it also can indicate you simply have poor balance or other impairments which could prevent you from standing on one leg for an extended period of time.
The Walk and Turn Test
Finally, the officer will ask you to complete the walk and turn test which is another divided attention which test which tests your ability to perform multiple actions at one time and follow directions. Under this test the officer will ask you to stand heel to toe and walk nine steps on an imaginary line while counting aloud.
The officer will observe whether you can walk in a straight line, whether you can follow instructions without falling or losing your balance, whether you can keep your hands at your side while you walk, whether you can count aloud, whether you can walk heel to toe, and whether you can pivot as instructed. As with the other tests, failing the walk and turn test may be an indication of intoxication, but it also could be an indication of other physical impairments.
So should you refuse the field sobriety test? Probably, but keep in mind, even if you refuse to take the field sobriety tests if the officer has other evidence or probable cause for a DUI arrest, they can arrest you with or without a field sobriety test.