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What are field sobriety tests?

The field sobriety tests are a series of exercises designed to determine whether a suspect is in control of his or her mental and physical faculties, i.e., whether or not they are impaired by the effects of alcohol. Unlike Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) tests, field sobriety tests are highly subjective and are not required by law. In most cases, field sobriety tests are used only for auxiliary evidence-gathering, as the officer has usually already decided to arrest the suspect by the time the tests are administered. Given the subjectivity of field sobriety tests, most lawyers advise against taking them, since they are rather unreliable and will only hurt a defendant’s case. Examples of standard field sobriety tests include: the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn, and the horizontal-gaze nystagmus test.

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