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Standard Field Sobriety Tests in Idaho

Field sobriety tests are a preliminary way that officers assess a driver’s sobriety.  However, like with more empirical tests, only tests that can be proven are allowed to be used as evidence of intoxication. The three main tests are: one-leg test, the walk and turn test and the horizontal gaze test.

(1) The one leg test:

This test requires the taker to stand on one leg as directed by the officer. The test is an effective way to assess balance and motor skills. The one-leg stand test is only 65% accurate. People with injuries, medical conditions, 50 pounds or greater overweight, and 65 years or older cannot be validly judged using this test. If after this test the officer feels that the individual is intoxicated then the individual will be asked (or told) to take a breathalyzer.

(2) The walk and turn test:

This test requires the taker to put one foot directly in front of the other and to walk a straight line. The walk-and-turn test is only 68% accurate in determining if a person is under the influence of drugs of alcohol. People with injuries, medical conditions, 50 pounds or greater overweight, and 65 years or older cannot be validly judged using this test. If after this test the officer feels that the individual is intoxicated then the individual will be asked (or told) to take a breathalyzer.

(3) The horizontal gaze test:

This test is where the officer takes an object like a pen and asks the taker to follow the pen with their eyes as the pen is moved slowly from side to side. If the eyes make jerky motions then the officer may assume that the driver is impaired.

But, these are not the only tests that may come up. An officer may use non-standardized tests as well. These tests may help them to make a judgment on the sobriety of the person but cannot be used in court. They include: counting fingers, standing with feet together and tipping your head back, reciting the alphabet forward or backward, touching your nose with a finger while your eyes are closed, or counting backwards from a certain number.

Challenges to field sobriety can be made in a few ways. First, there is the dash board camera on the police cruiser. This camera will record the events of the stop and may contradict the officers statement about what was observed at the stop. The same goes for the footage taken in interviews in the police station Second, the test must be done properly. According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, improperly administered field tests are not valid evidence of intoxication.


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