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What tests are used to determine sobriety during a stop?

If you’re pulled over while driving in the state of New York, you may be given a field sobriety test. These tests are used to determine whether you’re driving while inebriated and may be given in conjunction with a breathalyzer (which calculates your blood alcohol concentration). AAA.com offers some insight into the standard tests utilized during a DWI stop.

Walk-and-turn test

With this test, the driver is instructed to take nine steps away from the officer while walking heel-to-toe. Once the nine steps are taken, the subject must turn on one foot and return using the same method. Police will look for imbalance, problems understanding instructions, stopping, using arms to balance, stepping out of line, using an incorrect number of steps, and improper turning.  

Horizontal gaze nystagmus test

When you move your eyes to either side an involuntary jerking of the eye occurs. This is known as horizontal gaze nystagmus, and police look for an exaggerated response from people who are intoxicated. The officer will use a penlight or other object and swing it back and forth in front of the subject’s eyes. Along with checking for more pronounced involuntary jerks (which occur as a result of inebriation), the officer conducting the test will also look at how difficult it is for the person to track movement using their eyes alone.

One-leg stand test

While standing on one leg the driver will be asked by law enforcement to count for up to thirty seconds. While counting, the person will be observed for behaviors that commonly indicate inebriation. These include hopping, swaying, putting down the raised foot, and losing balance. While in an able-bodied person this test should be relatively easy to perform, for people with disabilities or mobility issues problems with balance are common. That’s why it’s important for police to inquire about any potential disabilities, which would necessitate a different testing mechanism.

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