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Standard Field Sobriety Tests in Massachusetts

Typical field sobriety tests are 3 with 2 extra ones used in situations that prevent administration of the first 3.  The first of the typical 3 is the step-walk-turn.  The officer should allow you to use a road or parking lot line if one is available.  He will ask you to walk the line 9 to 12 steps without wavering, falling, or stopping, and once you have reached the other end, he may ask you to walk it back.  This test measures coordination and multitasking.  The officer should give you a quick demonstration and you should know exactly what he expects.  Usually, you will be asked to keep your hands by your side and to count each step aloud.  The second of the typical 3 is the one leg stand.  Often this test is done to measure balance.  You will be asked to stand straight, lift one leg, keeping it straight, up to where your foot is approximately one foot off the ground, and count aloud to 10 or some number while keeping balanced with your hands by your side.  The final test of the typical 3 is the eye test.  The officer will usually hold a pin or something a foot from your face with one hand and a flashlight in the other, move the object in a straight line from right to left, back and fourth, and he will watch your eyes follow the object.  The other tests officers sometimes use include asking you to say the alphabet from one letter to another without singing it (like please say the alphabet from N to U) or the same with numbers instead of letters. 

Such tests are flawed for a number of reasons.  Many factors can impact the performance of such tests, for example: nervousness, medical conditions, and where the tests are performed.  Also, some officers explain what they want you to do poorly.  Some officers do a terrible job capturing you performance on their car camera, so just because you think you performed the tests poorly does not mean the state’s evidence against you is solid.  It is on these points an attorney with excellent cross-examining skills will prove invaluable.

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