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Photo of Joshua Nielsen
Photo of Joshua Nielsen

What are field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2019 | criminal defense

If you are one of the many people who live in North Carolina and find yourself charged with driving while intoxicated offense, you may understandably feel afraid and unsure of what to do next. It is important to remember than an arrest and an accusation of a crime does not guarantee that you will be convicted of the charges. One element of a drunk driving investigation and arrest process is the administration of field sobriety tests. Understanding these tests is important for you.

As explained by FieldSobrietyTests.org, there are three roadside tests approved for use by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, despite their federal agency approval, none of the tests are completely accurate. None of the tests can actually prove that a driver is intoxicated either. The accuracy rates of these tests range from a mere 65% for the one-leg stand test to 77% for the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. The walk-and-turn test has an accuracy rate of only 68%.

The purpose of these tests is not to prove impairment but to collect enough evidence suggesting that a person may be impaired. It is with this evidence that a law enforcement officer may legally place a driver under arrest and charge them with suspected drunk driving. Only a chemical test can be used to potentially prove a driver’s impairment and blood alcohol content.

This information is not intended to provide legal advice but is instead meant to give residents in North Carolina an overview of what field sobriety tests are, what they can or cannot prove and how accurate or inaccurate they may be.