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Are The Tests More Like Exercises Than Natural Tests?

Yes. The tests are like an exercise because the person is being graded on their psycho-physical ability.   The officer is also checking how well the person can follow directions. The instructions are very long, and even without any alcohol in their systems, most people would have difficulty following the instructions if they were just given once, and if the person had no prior experience with them.

What Happens In The One Leg Stand Test?

Basically, a person stands straight with one leg raised about six inches off the ground and not bent at the knee. They are instructed to look at their raised leg and count to 30 out loud.

Most officers bend their leg at the knee when they are demonstrating the test. When someone is raising their right leg, they might have a slight bend in it and in their left leg to help them keep their balance. The police do not tell people these things because it makes their job easier. They just look at the way the person swayed, whether they used their arms for balance, and guesstimate how far up the person held their leg. They don’t usually mention that dropping your leg, picking it up again, and continuing the count will be used against you.

Are There Unusual Tests Like Picking Coins Off The Ground Or Touching The Finger To The Nose?

Yes, I know older attorneys who have seen officers use the coin test, although I have not and I think it’s become less popular. The “finger to nose” test is still used, although it is not part of the standardized test that have technically been validated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which writes the curriculum most officers go through in their field sobriety test training.

There are only three standardized tests, and any tests other than those do not have studies to validate them as being reliable in showing whether or not someone was under the influence. Those three tests are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, One Leg Stand, and the Walk & Turn tests.

What Does The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test Consist Of And How Is It Performed?

Most people know the horizontal gaze nystagmus test as the “Follow my pen” or “Follow my finger” test. The officer puts a flashlight, a pen or his finger in front of the person’s face and tells them to follow it with their eyes. He will move the object from the middle of the person’s face to the right, then to the left of their nose several times. The officer will do something slightly different during each pass and will be looking for different things. To do the test properly, the officer makes about 8 passes for each eye.

Many officers only perform 1 or 2 passes and try to look for everything in that time instead of taking the extra few seconds to do the extra passes and administer the test correctly. The test is supposed to be performed in a very specific way, although the officers rarely do it that way. They are supposed to keep the object, whether it is a pen or their finger, 12 to 15 inches away from the individual’s face, slightly elevated so that the individual is looking skyward. They are look for jittering of the eye. Nystagmus is the involuntary jerking of the eye as it moves to the extremes. If someone holds their head straight and moves their eyes as far right or left as possible, their eyes will start jerking when they get to the outer limit. This jerk or jitter can be so slight that it is very hard to detect and might be thought to be seen even if it’s not.

Many officers don’t hold the object the proper distance or height from the individual’s face or. They test is supposed to be performed while the person is standing, although some officers perform it while the person is sitting. People often think they’ve passed the test because they were able to follow the officer’s finger back and forth. But that’s not actually the test. What the officer is looking for is whether the person’s eyes jerked when they looked to the far left or right, whether there was any jerking while the eyes were at rest, and at what angle of the eye the jerking started.

What Happens During The Walk And Turn Test?

In this test, the person is required to walk in a straight line. If they are in a parking lot, they can use the painted lines or a crack in the pavement. The line should be straight, and not a meandering crack or imaginary line. The test requires the person to walk heel-to-toe for 9 steps, turn in a specific way and walk back 9 steps.

People often don’t realize they are being tested on how they begin walking, how far apart their feet are while walking, and whether they step off the line when they take those initial 9 steps. They are also graded on how they turn, whether they pivot backwards or slowly, and how well they execute the return steps, i.e., heel-to-toe, the distance between their feet, whether they stepped off the line, and how their balance was.

The officer will be watching to see whether the person uses their arms for balance, whether the person is looking at the line or looking at the officer, and whether they were talking. The officer is looking for a variety of signs and he will not tell the person whether he did well or not.

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