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Field sobriety tests used during a traffic stop

When Illinois law enforcement stops a driver for suspected drunk driving, there are certain tests they may administer to determine a driver’s state. Alcohol affects people in different ways, and there are standard tests that may indicate if a chemical test of a driver’s blood alcohol content is necessary. These are standardized tests, and law enforcement must administer them in specific ways.

It may be in your interests to know about what to expect from a suspected drunk driving traffic stop. When you know what field sobriety tests include, it may help you discern if there is a problem or if you should challenge the results of your interaction with law enforcement. Incorrectly administered tests or violation of your rights could result in an invalidation of some, or all, of the evidence against you.

Tests you can expect

Field sobriety tests include three different tests. After stopping a driver, police may approach the window to talk with him or her. Speaking with the driver, looking in the vehicle and judging behavior may lead an officer to decide if a field sobriety test is necessary. These tests are to test balance, cognition and coordination. They include:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test — The eyeball will involuntarily jerk in an exaggerated manner when moving side-to-side in an intoxicated person. During this test, an officer will have a driver follow an object with his or her eyes.
  • One-leg stand test — During this test, a driver will have to balance on one leg for a certain amount of time. An intoxicated driver will have difficulty doing this without bouncing, putting a leg down or using arms to balance.
  • Walk-and-turn test — During this test, a driver will take steps along a straight line, turn on one foot, then walk back in the other direction. Losing balance or not following directions is a failure of this test.

Failure of a field sobriety test could result in the officer asking you to submit to a chemical test of your blood, breath or urine. If you refuse, you could still face arrest and lose your license to suspension. If you are facing drunk driving charges, you may benefit from the assistance of an attorney who can help you fight back, starting by carefully evaluating the circumstances of your original traffic stop.

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