DWI—How Law Enforcement Uses Field Sobriety Tests at the Time of Stop and in Court

If you have been arrested for DWI in Arkansas, or watched a reality cop show, chances are really good that you have witnessed or performed field sobriety tests. These tests are the ones that require you to walk a certain number of steps “heel to toe,” hold your leg off the ground for a period of time, or follow an object with your eyes.

What cops are doing when asking you to perform these tests is gathering evidence of known indicators of over­–the–limit intoxication. These three tests, the “walk and turn,” “one leg stand,” and “horizontal gaze nystagmus” tests are the standardized tests approved by the National Highway Safety Administration and heavily trained upon in law enforcement.

Why do cops use them? Some younger and inexperienced cops, and laypersons, think the tests are to determine if you can be arrested for DWI. In other words, these persons tend to think that if you pass the tests, the cops cannot arrest you or charge you with DWI.

This is simply wrong.

Cops primarily use the tests for evidence gathering. Cops ask you to perform the tests to determine if there is probable cause to arrest you for DWI. They are asking you to do the tests to gather evidence to be used against you in court. This evidence is particularly relevant if you refuse chemical tests for blood alcohol content (BAC) or drug testing.

Failing these three tests indicates, statistically with a high probability, intoxication sufficient to sustain a conviction for DWI. Courts can use your performance on these tests to convict you for DWI.

What can you do? You have several options for dealing with standardized field sobriety tests when requested to perform these tests by law enforcement. How you respond to the requests depends upon various factors. Your decision to take the tests, as well as your performance, can mean the difference between a DWI conviction and a DWI acquittal.

If you have DWI questions, or if you have been arrested for DWI and want to know your rights, please call our office today.

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