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What is the purpose of a field sobriety test?

| Apr 12, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

When an officer pulls you over for a routine traffic stop, what can they do if they suspect you of driving under the influence? They have many tools at their disposal, but they are likely to turn to field sobriety tests first.

Why is that? What purpose do field sobriety tests serve on a whole? And what do the results from these tests mean for you?

Why do field sobriety tests come first?

Very Well Mind examines field sobriety tests and their uses. Field sobriety tests are a less invasive form of checking someone for potential signs of intoxication. This is why officers tend to lean on it before they turn to other testing methods, like breath or blood analysis.

Officers also tend to use these test results as a way to determine if they need further testing. For example, if you pass a field sobriety test, they will likely let you go. But if you fail, they may request a follow-up breath or blood analysis.

Officer bias and its influence

However, field sobriety tests often end up influenced by officer bias in some way. This is true of both standardized and non-standardized tests, though it is less prominent with the former. Courts take this into consideration when they review a case. In many instances, failed field sobriety test results only see use as supporting evidence. Officers may also use these results to validate their decision to make an arrest.

So while a failed field sobriety test does not mean the end of the world, you should still treat it seriously. After all, it can lead to further testing or even your arrest.