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Standard Field Sobriety Tests in Michigan

There are three main Field Sobriety Tests that are used in Michigan, which were developed and outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for pre-arrest screening. The first Field Sobriety Test is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, which seeks to determine whether the involuntary twitching of the driver’s eyes (the Nystagmus). The police officer should have the driver following a visual stimulus (either a pen, a finger, or a small light) and should look for lack of smooth pursuit of the stimulus, distinct twitching at the maximum deviation of the stimulus, or onset of twitching prior to 45 degrees from the center position of the stimulus. For checking smooth pursuit, the police officer usually makes at least two full passes from side to side with a minimum of four seconds for each pass. For distinct twitching at maximum deviation, the point of max deviation is when the eye is pointing towards a shoulder. The admissibility of this test can be challenged by not being correctly administered via lack of passes or lack of time for each pass, both of which are common. Also, having the driver face the patrol car can also be used to challenge the test since the patrol car lights can cause the involuntary twitching.

The second Field Sobriety Test administered by police officers in Michigan is the Walk and Turn Test. This test involves the driver standing on a line, with arms at their side, and walking the line with one foot in front of another when told to do so. The driver will be asked to walk nine steps forward, turn back, and walk nine steps back. There are eight factors that the police officer will observe, and failing at least two of them results in failure of the test. The factors include: lack of balance during instructions, starting too soon, stopping while in the act of walking, not touching heel to toe, stepping off the line, using arms for balance, an improper turn, or an incorrect number of steps. The most common bases for challenging this test is when the officer fails to give the right instructions (including the correct number of steps), fails to provide appropriate test conditions, or fails to use the right scoring method (two out of eight is a failure).

The third and last Field Sobriety Test given by Michigan officers is the One Leg Stand Test, which has two phases: the instruction phase and the balance and counting stage. During the instruction phase, the police officer should instruct the driver to stand with feet together and arms at their sides. With this maintained, the driver will then be instructed to raise on of their legs, about six inches off the ground with the foot pointed out. Then, the driver will have to keep their eyes on the elevated foot and count 1001, 1002, 1003, and so on until told to stop. It’s important for the cop to time whether the driver can hold the foot elevated for 30 seconds. The police officer will look for four clues: swaying, using arms for balance, hopping, or putting the arms down. Observing two of the four factors results in failure of the test. The driver can challenge this test for incorrect instructions, incorrect time of elevation, or inadequate test conditions.


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