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Understanding the three field sobriety tests used in New York


Motorists in New York who are accused of drunk driving have serious consequences to be concerned about. A DUI charge could mean fines, jail time and driver's license revocation if the driver is convicted.

When a police officer suspects a driver is drunk, he or she will usually ask the driver to perform a series of field sobriety tests. There are three different tests. If the driver fails any one of these tests, the officer will then ask the driver to provide a breath, blood or urine sample.

The first test is the horizontal gaze nystagmus, which tests for the involuntary jerking of the eye which naturally occurs when a person gazes to the side. This jerking is exaggerated when someone is under the influence of alcohol.

The second test is the walk and turn. The purpose of this test is to determine the suspect's ability to complete a task with divided attention. This test will typically include a heel-to-toe walk, walking a straight line, turning on one foot and repeating the walk in the same manner in the opposite direction.

The third and final field sobriety test is the one-leg stand. Suspects are asked to stand on one foot with the other foot roughly six inches off of the ground. They are asked to keep this stance while counting to 30. Officers are looking for swaying, using arms to balance, hopping or even putting their foot down.

While the information collected during a field sobriety test could be used to charge a driver with a DUI, a driver could use that same information to suppress the evidence used against them. If an officer did not properly conduct the test, this could be grounds for dismissal of the charges.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Field Sobriety Tests," accessed Oct. 23, 2016

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