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Field Sobriety Tests

Updated on June 2, 2013

Women Suspected of DUI

by Amber Maccione

Have you ever been out driving and you notice a vehicle that just cannot seem to stay within the lines or seems to be swerving all over the road? If you have, your first instinct is that the person is drunk or falling asleep at the wheel. Therefore, to protect yourself, you either: speed up and pass them so that you can avoid them all together or you slow down and pull back so you do not end up getting hit. As a police officer, your option is quite clear: you must pull them over to see what is going on because it is your duty to keep the roads safe for other drivers. The only way to find out if a person is driving under the influence is to pull them over, observe their behavior, and make a decision based on observation and field sobriety tests.

Walk the Line


Summary of Video

In one example of someone driving under the influence, the police officer noticed a car changing lanes and swerving in and out of the lines for quite some time. Even after he turned on his lights for the individual to pull over, she kept driving and swerving unaware that the officer wanted her to pull over. Eventually she pulled over her car and the officer approached (CopsCarsandCrashes 2009).

When the officer got to the car, he followed routine. He told her he had been following her for some time and that she was swerving. Then he asked her if she had had anything to drink. She replied with no. Therefore, the officer took her at her word and asked for her license, registration, and insurance. But quickly he had to stop her to tell her numerous times to place her car in park, which she seemed to have some difficulty knowing how to do (CopsCarsandCrashes 2009).

With having observed the woman swerving, not pulling over right away, and not knowing how to place her car in park, he had suspicion that the woman was probably driving under the influence. Therefore, he had her step out of her car to complete some field sobriety tests. The woman could not pass. As she tried to bend over and tie her shoes, the officer had to steady her from falling over and help her get her balance once she was standing up right. Then he had her complete one test – the walk the line. She couldn’t do it. She was wobbly, swerving, and stumbling over her own feet. With what he had observed, he arrested her for a DUI (driving under the influence) (CopsCarsandCrashes 2009).

Ethanol & Blood Alcohol Concetration

A police officer’s observation and completion of sobriety tests are really all he has to stand on when testifying whether he was correct in charging an individual with a DUI. Ethanol, one of the chemicals found in alcohol that affects a person’s coordination, vision, and reaction time cannot be smelled or seen. So when an officer pulls someone over for a suspected DUI, just smelling alcohol on someone is not enough to say that they were driving under the influence. The officer has to have some proof that the person’s coordination, vision, and/or reaction time was impaired to validate them arresting someone for a DUI. Therefore, documenting their observations of a person when they pull the individual over and conducting sobriety tests right then and there are important to their testimony in getting a DUI conviction of a person in court.

Another reason field sobriety tests along with the documented observation is for the blood alcohol concentration. Weight, height, sex, and metabolism of an individual can obstruct the blood alcohol level of a person between the time they were pulled over and observed to the time they get to the jail and are given a blood test to find out the actual level of intoxication. Someone could be physically intoxicated at the scene, but be sober by the time they arrive at the jail. If an officer does not get evidence at the scene of the crime (observation of impaired coordination, vision, and reaction time with the field sobriety tests), it could ruin their ability to have a DUI charge stick in court because a person’s blood alcohol level could have changed between the time of arrest and the time their blood was drawn at the jail.

Field Sobriety Tests

Are field sobreity tests reliable evidence for convicting someone of a DUI?

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With the video of this one woman being arrested for a DUI, it was quite apparent that she was intoxicated by the field sobriety test and the fact that she lacked basic coordination that a regular person should be able to do when operating a vehicle while being sober. Although some could argue that there could be other reasons for why she couldn’t do simple tasks such as put her car in park, tie her shoe, and walk, the field sobriety test and the police’s observation were solid evidence to use in court as to why this woman should be convicted of a DUI. And it also shows how these tests are solid tools for officers to use so that they can keep you safe as you drive to your destination.


CopsCarsandCrashes. (2009, February 8). Top 3 sobriety tests – number 2 [Video clip].

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