Types of Sobriety Tests

2Types of Sobriety Tests

Law enforcement takes drunk driving very seriously. North Carolina law restricts driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. When police officers pull a vehicle over for a traffic stop, they may think that the driver is intoxicated. Field sobriety tests are the method that officers use to try to determine whether a driver is over the legal drinking limit. Tests are done with a driver to assess their level of impairment. Many people wonder what types of sobriety tests are used and whether they must comply with a request to complete them.


Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

There are three main standardized field sobriety tests. These are recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The standardized tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the one-leg stand, and the walk-and-turn test. The officer provides instructions to the driver and observes how the driver obeys instructions and performs the tests. The standardized tests are completed the same way across the country. Law enforcement officers generally have training on how to administer the tests and evaluate the results.


Charlotte DWI Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “Are breath test results always accurate?”


Non-Standardized Tests

Police officers may also administer some non-standardized tests in an attempt to determine impairment. Some of the commonly used tests that are not standardized include the head-tilt test, touch-your-nose test, and reciting the alphabet, among others. These tests are not considered standardized, and they are more subjective. This means that the officer conducting the test may want to use the tests to prove impairment rather than simply evaluate. These tests are not considered objective, and therefore, the officers should not necessarily rely on them to determine sobriety.



Do I Have to Take a Field Sobriety Test?

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are considered preliminary tests that you perform at the roadside as part of a traffic stop. When the officer wants to determine impairment, they may ask you to participate in FSTs. These tests are not mandatory, and the officer does not have to require you to take them. However, if the officer believes that you might be impaired, they will still be able to proceed by taking you into custody on suspicion of DWI.


Must I Comply with a BAC Test?

Law enforcement can request you to take a breath, blood, or urine test to measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). You must comply with a BAC test if the police ask you to take one. The implied consent law requires all drivers with a license to take a BAC test if requested. If you refuse, you will be charged with a separate offense, and your license will be suspended. The implied consent law does not apply to preliminary breath tests such as the ones that the police may administer at the roadside. However, the police may then take you to the police station to administer an official DWI test.


If you have been charged with DWI, you know that it is a serious offense. You will need a strong and vigorous defense of the charges with help from a qualified DWI attorney. To learn more about sobriety tests and get the legal support you need, contact us today at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, at (704) 370-2828 for a consultation or find additional resources here.






The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.



Drunk Driving | Statistics and Resources | NHTSA

field sobriety test | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)


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