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Field Sobriety Test

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, “The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (FST) is a battery of 3 tests performed during a traffic stop in order to determine if a driver is impaired.” FST are not compulsory in all states but in North Carolina they are typically the the first steps used by the stopping officer in an attempt to determine if a driver is under the influence or impaired by alcohol or drugs. The FST are used to assist the stopping officer in establishing probable cause to arrest someone for drunk or drugged driving. If you are arrested for DWI, regardless of whether or not you complied with the tests, it is important to get a lawyer right away. While the State and most officers believe the FST are highly accurate at assessing intoxication and identifying impairment in drivers, many independent experts and criminal defense attorneys, like Chad Brown, believe the FST provide minimal if any value to the court in assessing impairment. (LINK TO ARTICLE ON TRUTH ABOUT FST) Additionally, these tests are typically administered incorrectly undermining their already limited validity as indicators of impairment.


The test battery consists of three individual field sobriety tests:

  • One-Leg Stand Test: This field sobriety test is supposed to be divided into two sections: instruction and performance. An officer will carefully instruct the individual in question to stand while raising one leg six inches above the ground keeping it straight with foot pointed upward. The individual should keep their arms to their sides and begin counting aloud starting at 1,000, 1,001, 1002 etc. While the test is being performed the officer will look for signs of intoxication such as swaying, using arms for balance, hopping or putting foot down (things all persons do regardless of impairment when trying to maintain balance).
  • Walk-and-Turn Test: This test is also divided into instruction and performance. The officer will carefully instruct subject to walk nine heel-to-toe steps in a straight line, pivot, then take nine heel-to-toe steps back. The subject will then perform the test while keeping their arms to their sides, looking at their feet, and counting aloud. Balance, timing, consistency, accuracy, and adherence to specific instruction will all be observed carefully by the officer while the test is being performed. (think how difficult it was to walk on a playground balance beam as a child – this is what the test purportedly tests)
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test: Nystagmus is a medical condition used to describe jerking of the eyeball, a condition that becomes pronounced when a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Prior to administering the test an officer will see if the person’s eyes can simultaneous follow a moving object. (Even eye doctors question the validity of this test)


These field sobriety tests are far from definitive, but they are routinely used by police officers as a basis for probable cause to make an arrest. In the state of North Carolina, field sobriety tests are not compulsory. If a driver does submit to the tests his or her lawyer can challenge their reliability during court in a number of different ways. This is why it is so important to hire an attorney to represent you, regardless of whether or not you decided to take the tests after you were stopped and detained by the police prior to being charged with DWI.


Hire A Lawyer

Should you be arrested for DWI, hiring a lawyer will give you the best possible chance of challenging the basis for your arrest including challenging the FST that are usually the basis of the probable cause to arrest that led to your charge. Chad Brown Law will aggressively pursue the greatest outcome for your case, representing you with dedication and professionalism. If you have been charged with a DWI call Chad Brown right away.

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150 Charlois Blvd

Ste 390,

Winston-Salem, NC 27103

(336) 546-5066

303 N. Center Street


NC 28687

(704) 992-3002

104 Broad St

Wilkesboro, NC 28697

(336) 818-9828