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Standard Field Sobriety Tests in D.C.

Washington D.C. has three Standard Field Sobriety Tests: 1) the driver may be asked to perform a “one-leg stand,” where he/she is asked to step out of the car, stand on one leg, and either count or recite the alphabet. 2) the driver may be asked to “walk turn” by first taking nine steps, turning, and then taking nine steps back. 3) The “horizontal gaze nystagmus” (HGN) test gauges the driver’s ability to track a moving object with their eyes, usually a pen, across their field of vision.

Typically, all observations the police officer makes while conducting any of the above tests are admissible as evidence of driving while intoxicated. However, if the officer had no reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle, had no probable cause to perform the tests, or did not give a proper Miranda warning, and then the evidence of the tests will be inadmissible.

The principle argument that should be made to challenge a field sobriety test is that, unlike a Breathalyzer test which is required by law, a field sobriety test is voluntary. Also, the tests are not scientifically accurate as are the chemical tests. They are based on the officer’s individual perceptions and it can be argued that his/her perceptions were inaccurate.


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