Michigan Standardized Field Sobriety Testing

Michigan Sobriety Tests

When pulled over for suspicion of operating while intoxicated (OWI or DUI as some call it), police officer will almost always put you through a series of tests to determine whether or not they believe they have suspicion that you are operating a vehicle while intoxicated or driving under the influence. In order to give these tests, officer should be properly trained on how to correctly administer these tests. Although many studies have proven that field sobriety tests are extremely unreliable, they are still frequently used to determine a person’s level of intoxication. In many cases, If you are stopped on suspicion of drunk driving, the following standardized field sobriety tests will likely be administered to you:


For this test, the officer will ask you to follow his/her pen or finger with your eyes. He or she watches closely to see if you can properly follow their movement with your eyes. You will be instructed not to move your head. As officers perform this test, they are looking for whether or not there is a lack of smooth pursuit in both the right and left eyes, whether nystagmus is at maximum deviation in both the right and left eyes, as well as if there is the onset of nystagmus before 45 degrees in the right and left eyes. Nystagmus is a vision condition in which the eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements, which can often happen after the consumption of alcohol.


To perform this test, you will be asked to take nine heel-to-toe steps in a straight line, turn, and then take nine steps back while counting each step aloud. The officers will look for a series of mistakes, including the following:

  • whether or not you can keep your balance while the officer is giving instructions
  • if you stop before completing the task
  • whether or not you touch heel to toe on every step both down and back
  • if you step off the line or can you walk perfectly along the imaginary line
  • whether or not you need to use your arms for balance
  • if you turn incorrectly or lose balance while turning
  • if you take the incorrect number of steps


When administering this test, the officer will first give you a set of instructions. The officer will ask you to stand with your feet together and arms at your side while they explain or show you how to complete this task. After confirming that you understand the directions, then you will have to physically perform the test. You will be instructed to stand on one leg while raising the other six inches off the ground and counting one thousand one, one thousand two, until you get to one thousand thirty or until the officer asks you to stop. The officer will look for the following mistakes while performing this test:

  • Did you use your arms to maintain balance?
  • If you were swaying or not
  • Whether you had to hop up and down to maintain balance
  • Or whether or not you had to put your foot down before the test is over or before the officer instructed you to stop.


The finger-to-nose test is very similar to the Romberg balance test, which you will learn about next. The officer instructs you to stand with your feet together and arms at your sides. Next, they will have you close both eyes and extend your index finger out. Finally, the officer instructs you to bring your left index finger to the tip of your nose and then have you do the same with your right index finger after you’ve returned the left-back down to your side. The test will be conducted in the following sequence: Left, Right, Left, Right, Right, Left.


For this test, the officer instructs you to stand with your feet together, head tilted backward, arms at your side, and your eyes closed. The officer will then ask you to maintain this position for approximately 30 seconds.

While the Rhomberg test is not a standardized test, and not always used, there is no real way to score the test. However, police officers will usually look for three factors in determining whether or not you are impaired or intoxicated:

  • The amount of swaying, if any, during the test
  • The subject’s ability to estimate 30 seconds
  • The subject’s ability to follow instructions

If you’ve been pulled over for a DUI, don’t wait to the drunk driving attorneys at Hills Law Office. We have offices in both Kalamazoo and Berrien to better serve you. Call us today at 269.373.5430.


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