The purpose of field sobriety tests

With the holiday season gearing up, a lot of emphasis is placed on drinking and driving. All around North Carolina and the rest of the country, law enforcement agencies will be setting up drunk driving checkpoints designed to identify potentially impaired drivers. The fact remains, however, the driving after having a drink or two is not illegal as long as a person’s blood alcohol content is under the legal limit. Determining a blood alcohol content requires a chemical test.

As explained by, the three tests commonly used by police officers before any chemical test is administered is not able to prove that a driver is intoxicated. In fact, these tests are not even intended to do this. Instead, the field sobriety tests are used only to collect enough evidence to show that a driver might be intoxicated. This information provides legal ground on which an officer can then place a person under arrest and charge them with suspected drunk driving.

It is also important for you to know that each of the three field sobriety tests has a known inaccuracy rate. Of the three tests, the most accurate is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test and even that is only accurate 77% of the time. The other two tests are accurate between 65% and 68% of the time.

If you would like to learn more about field sobriety tests and the different elements involved in a driving while intoxicated charge against you and how you might protect and defend yourself against these charges, please feel free to visit the drunk driving defense page of our North Carolina criminal defense website.