Police officers use a battery of tests called field sobriety tests (FSTs) to determine whether the driver of a vehicle is impaired and to develop probable cause to arrest the driver for drunk driving. Almost all FSTs are designed to test balance, coordination and dexterity. They are commonly called “divided attention” tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA has three standardized FSTs that are used by law enforcement to detect drunk drivers. However, police may use a battery of non-standardized FSTs as well to determine whether a driver is under the influence.
What are the Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests?
Officers may often use a several non-standardized FSTs in addition to using standardized field sobriety tests. It is rare, if non-existent, where officers would use non-standardized FSTs alone. Examples of non-standardized FSTs include:
- Rhomberg Balance Test
- Finger-to-Nose Test
- Finger Count Test or Finger Tap Test
- Hand Pat Test
- ABC Test
- Numbers Test (Backwards)
These tests will be explored in depth in other DUIAuthority.com articles. The best way to “pass” these tests is simply not to take them. Like all FSTs, they are completely voluntarily and you are not required to take them. The results of non-standardized FSTs can be just as devastating and could be used in court just like standardized FSTs.
Standardized FSTs vs. Non-Standardized FSTs
What is the difference between standardized FSTs and non-standardized FSTs? Simply put, non-standardized tests have not been validated by any organization, including NHTSA. For standardized tests, NHTSA has employed several studies to show that someone who shows several clues in performing those tests are most likely under the influence and too impaired to drive. No such studies have been done on non-standardized tests so the accuracy of testing sobriety is anyone’s guess.
The other major problem with non-standardized testing is that there is no standardized method in administering the tests. With standardized testing, NHTSA has published the exact manner in which a police officer must give instructions, demonstrate the test, and administer the test. The clues that are to be observed are also very clear in standardized tests.
With non-standardized tests, the administration of the same test may be done differently from police agency to police agency, indeed from officer to officer. For example, during the Rohmberg Balance Test, an officer may tell a person to close their eyes and then tilt his or her head back or an officer may tell a person to tilt his or her head back and then close their eyes. This may seem innocent enough, but, in reality, it is much more difficult for someone to keep balance by closing their eyes first and then tilting their head back.
Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in the Courtroom
Prosecutors and law enforcement argue that the results on non-standardized tests are reliable indicators to determine if a person is driving under the influence of alcohol or DUI. Experienced DUI defense attorneys argue that the non-standardized tests are not reliable. No studies have been done to correlate a particular non-standardized test with sobriety. Obtain an experienced DUI attorney to help prevent the use of non-standardized field sobriety tests in your case.