Utah Field Sobriety Tests

Utah Field Sobriety Tests

For a driving under the influence (DUI) charge, Utah police officers must first gather evidence that a crime has been committed. This can be done through the officer's observations and a portable breathalyzer as well as field sobriety testing. Field sobriety tests involve conducting a simple physical task so the officer can look for signs of intoxication.

Field Sobriety Testing

While there are a number of field sobriety tests, such as counting backwards or touching your fingers to your nose, only three have been developed and standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the 1970s: the one-leg stand, horizontal gaze nystagmus, and walk-and-turn. The NHTSA created the proper guidelines that should be used when administering these tests to ensure the results are accurate and consistent.

While the courts and law enforcement may believe in the reliability of the field sobriety tests, they are not without their critics. Some scientific experts and psychologists argue that these tests are invalid and not the best indicator of intoxication. Many factors, such as fatigue, distraction, and even shoes, can impact performance on the field sobriety tests. In addition, the officer's own bias could lead to a failing test score. 

The Three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

One-Leg Stand: Known as a "divided attention" test, the one-leg stand measures your ability to follow directions and stand on one leg while the other foot is six inches off of the ground. An inability to balance may be used by the police as an indication of intoxication.

Walk-and-Turn: Another divided attention test, the walk-and-turn requires that you take nine heel-to-toe steps on a real or imaginary line, turn, and walk back. Signs of impairment may include taking the wrong number of steps, stepping off the line, or using arms for balance.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: This test measures the involuntary jerking of the eyeballs that becomes more distinct when an individual is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. To perform this test, you will be required to follow a small object with your eyes as an officer moves it back and forth, horizontally.

Contact a Utah Defense Lawyer for Help

Even if you fail the field sobriety tests--or the breathalyzer, for that matter--there may be several defenses that can be applied to your case in order to challenge your charges.