Why do officers use field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Apr 9, 2021 | DUI

When an officer believes you are driving under the influence, they still need to prove it before they arrest you. They have many tools at their disposal to help them get the answers they need.

Of these tools, one is the field sobriety test. There are many different types, but they all serve a similar purpose. Just what is that purpose, though?

Standardized field sobriety tests

Very Well Mind takes a look into field sobriety tests. These tests include both standardized and non-standardized versions, with the former holding more popularity. This is due to the fact that they share a unified rubric, which allows officers to eliminate bias while judging results.

These tests include things like the horizontal gaze nystagmus or the walk-and-turn. Officers use them to judge your dexterity, balance, mobility and ability to follow instructions.

What happens if you fail?

If you fail a field sobriety test, an officer will often request another test as a follow-up or confirmation. They may require a breath or blood analysis test, which they do not often use first because they are more invasive. In some cases, an officer may use a failed field sobriety test as probable cause to make an arrest.

The courts do not often put much weight on field sobriety test results, though. As mentioned, officer bias often plays a potential role in the way results end up interpreted. Courts are aware of this. Thus, field sobriety test results often act as supporting evidence for other pieces of information. In some cases, it is just used to prove that an officer had probable cause to arrest you. Outside of that, field sobriety tests do not play a very big part.