Indiana Field Sobriety Tests

Field Sobriety Tests

Field Sobriety Tests

If asked to step from your vehicle and perform any field sobriety tests, please know that you are under NO LEGAL OBLIGATION to do so. 

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST)

The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST), the eye test, the one leg stand test, and the walk and turn test, are a regular part of the evidence the State will use to try to convict you of DUI. Officers are trained that these tests are scientifically sound indicators of impairment or lack of impairment however, not all officers follow their training and DO NOT perform the tests as they were trained making the results unreliable and questionable at best.  It is not uncommon for officers to deviate from their training, after all everyone makes mistakes.  These deviations may call into question if you were impaired at all. I don’t like to call them tests because the word test implies that they are accurate indicators and I do not believe that to be the case. 

Important Case

An important case regarding SFSTs is STATE v. HOMAN (732 N.E.2d 952, OHIO 2000).  In that case the Ohio Supreme Court held that Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) conducted in a manner that departs from the methods established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “are inherently unreliable”. The court determined that the administration of the SFSTs, including the One leg Stand and Walk and Turn tests, must be performed in strict compliance with the directives issued by NHTSA.  Your DUI attorney will check to see how the police did in terms of following their training.

The Exercises

In Carmel, drivers are asked to execute three different exercises.

  • One Leg Stand Test
  • Walk and Turn Test
  • Eye Test (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test or HGN)

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims that these “exercises” are the most accurate method of identifying an impaired driver.  Therefore, the Carmel Police Department, and most law enforcement agencies in the state use these three tests as one method of identifying impaired drivers. 

Proper Administration

During their NHTSA training, officers are trained on the proper administration of the field sobriety exercises including, clear, accurate instructions on how you are to perform as well as clues of impairment to identify and note during the administration of the exercise.  However, police officers often ignore their training, find short cuts, and ultimately make mistakes.  Since most people charged with DUI want to get their case resolved as quickly as possible, these mistakes simply go unnoticed, and plead guilty to what might have been an avoidable conviction.  Officers are trained to demonstrate each exercise to you prior to asking you to start.  Nevertheless, it is not uncommon for the officer to only tell you the instructions.  Then because you have never done the exercise before and the office has not demonstrated how to do the exercise the officer marks that you failed the test as evidence of your impairment.   

Objective Scoring

In the course of their NHTSA field sobriety training the officers are taught to use an objecting scoring method.  However, many officers will use subjective opinions, because it is just easier to do, rather than the objective scoring method which was part of their training.  A seasoned DUI lawyer will use this as evidence that the tests are NOT reliable indicators of impairment. 

Because resources are tight, there are police departments that use sobriety tests that have not been approved by the NHTSA.  An attorney will point out that the federal government (NHTSA) believes that there are more accurate indicators for impairment that should be used.


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