Non-Standard Roadside Field Sobriety Tests

If you’ve been drinking at a bar or a party, it’s in your best interest to be careful when driving home. If a police officer notices you driving erratically, they will likely pull you over. If the officer smells drugs in the car or alcohol on your breath, you could be asked to take one or more field sobriety tests.

Have you been pulled over and asked to perform non-standard roadside field sobriety tests? If so, contact O’Meara Law at 312-909-0706 and have a lawyer assess your case.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

There are two types of field sobriety tests that police officers use: standard and non-standard. While these tests cannot accurately determine your blood alcohol content (BAC), they can be used to give police officers reason to arrest you.

Only three standard tests are approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, the one-leg stand test, and the walk-and-turn test. The rest are considered non-standard roadside field sobriety tests. While the results may be used in court, it is possible to challenge them and protect your freedom.

Standard Roadside Field Sobriety Tests

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. The police officer is looking for nystagmus, which is eye twitching that everyone experiences when they look right or left without head movement. If you’re drunk, you’re likely to experience nystagmus sooner or more intensely than a person who is sober.
  • One-leg stand test. To perform this correctly, you must be able to stand, with one foot raised six inches above the ground for 30 seconds.
  • Walk-and-turn test. You will be asked to walk heel-to-toe in a straight line. You will walk nine steps, turn, and walk nine steps in the opposite direction.

Common Non-Standard Field Sobriety Tests

It’s not uncommon for a police officer to ask you to take non-standard roadside field sobriety tests. While you can refuse to take these tests, you do so at your own risk. Refusing to follow a police officer’s orders could result in an additional charge.

In most cases, even sober drivers are unable to pass these tests. However, many officers continue to use them anyway. If you do fail a non-standard field sobriety test, the police officer will likely arrest you and charge you with a DUI.

Some non-standard roadside field sobriety tests you may be asked to perform include:

  • Counting backward from a high number. As the name suggests, you would start from 100 and recite the numbers backward (99, 98, 97, etc.) until you reach one.
  • Reciting the alphabet backward. You would start with Z and recite the letters backward until you work your way to A – a test that even those who are sober have difficulty mastering.
  • Finger to nose touch. You will be asked to close your eyes with your arms extended horizontally. Your head must also be tipped back. You then use the index fingers of both hands to touch the tip of your nose.
  • Finger count. This involves counting the number of fingers a police officer is holding up. You typically will be asked to touch each finger and count forwards and backward. For example, if there are four fingers, you would count “1,2,3,4,4,3,2,1.”

While these tests can show physical and mental impairment, they are not accurate indicators of drunkenness. According to experts, those under the influence of alcohol will show mental impairments before physical ones.

Non-standard roadside field sobriety tests are not approved by the NHTSA. They are considered inaccurate and do not typically serve as valid evidence against you in court. While a police officer may use the results of these tests as evidence in court, you and your lawyer can challenge them.

Our Chicago DUI Lawyers Can Help You

Non-standard roadside field sobriety tests should not be used to determine your sobriety. If you were forced to perform such a test – and failed – a Chicago DUI lawyer can defend your case.

These tests do not provide valid results. If you were charged with DUI based solely on a roadside test like reciting the ABCs backward or touching your nose with your finger, contact a DUI lawyer at O’Meara Law to learn more about your legal rights. Call us today at 312-909-0706.