Field Sobriety Tests

I am often asked about the different tests officers conduct on individuals who are pulled over and suspected of drinking and driving.
In the state of Michigan, a person must not operate a vehicle if he or she “has an alcohol content of 0.08 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine” or if he or she is under the influence of alcohol.  To be under the influence of alcohol means that because of drinking alcohol, the individual’s ability to operate a motor vehicle in a normal manner was substantially lessened.
There will be a series of blog posts on the following:

  1. Field Sobriety Tests
  2. Preliminary Breath Test (PBT)
  3. Evidentiary Breath Tests (EBT)
  4. Refusal to Take a Chemical Test.

Field sobriety tests are used by an officer to make observations of an individual that are not otherwise subject to his observation, specifically, observations of whether an individual has been drinking alcohol.  Field sobriety tests are typically administered on the side of the road after a driver has been pulled over and is suspected of drinking and driving.
Law enforcement officers should be formally trained in administering field sobriety tests.  The purpose of the training is to teach officers to look for signals of intoxication.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recognizes three tests: the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), the Walk-and-Turn (WAT), and the One-Leg Stand (OLS).  Each of these tests is standardized and there are proper administration techniques.  For example, the one-leg stand requires that the officer tell the individual to stand with feet together and arms at side; tell the individual to stand on one foot, with the other foot held straight about six inches off the ground, toes pointed forward and parallel to the ground; demonstrate the stance; tell the individual to count from 1 to 30 by thousands; demonstrate the count for several seconds; ask the individual if they understand; if not, re-explain; tell the individual to begin; allow the subject to resume at the point of interruption should the individual put one foot down and not require him or her to start back at one.
When an officer suspects a Michigan driver has been drinking alcohol, that driver has certain duties, including taking a Preliminary Breath Test and/or chemical tests.  There are consequences for not complying with each of these duties.  To the contrary, there is no duty to comply with field sobriety tests.  Thus, there is no legal ramification for failing to comply with an officers’ request to comply with a field sobriety test.
If you have been charged with a drunk driving offense, feel free to contact our office with any questions.


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