How your Mental State Can Affect the Way You Perform in a Field Sobriety Test

mental stateYou may be asked to perform a field sobriety test if a police officer suspects that you are driving under the influence of alcohol. These tests will aid an officer in the decision of whether or not you are capable of driving, or are impaired and will be arrested for a DUI. These tests are used as evidence in your case against you. There are three tests that were established by the NHT which police officers may use:

– The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

– The Walk-and-Turn Test

– The One-Leg Test

How you feel at that moment, and what you are thinking can lead to a faulty reading, such as if you are nervous, which people tend to be when stopped by police officers. Few people know that when asked to perform a field sobriety test, you are allowed to refuse. This does not mean you cannot be arrested or forced to forfeit your dmv hearing; it just limits the evidence against you. Yet, once arrested, you cannot refuse a chemical test to measure your blood alcohol content without penalty. But again, out there on the road, you do have the right to refuse.

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

45b5ba632bf90fc667c8ae40d0cf9754When conducting this test, an officer will have you track the movement of a pen or finger with just your eyes. Nystagmus is a natural occurring involuntary jerking of your eye when looking at peripheral items. Studies have shown that Nystagmus is more pronounced when you are impaired. These are the signs an officer is looking for which would indicate your impairment:

– Your inability to smoothly watch the pen and your eyes jerk as they focus on tracking the movement

– If your eye starts jerking when stretched all the way to one side

– Nystagmus occurring before reaching a forty five degree angle.

The Walk-and-Turn Test

For this test, you will be asked to walk nine paces, heel to toe, in a straight line. There are eight clues to impairment, but the officer need only see two for them to arrest you:

– Lack of balance while listening to the instructions

– Beginning before instructions are finished

– Pausing while walking to regain balance

– Failing to walk heel to toe

– Stepping off the straight line

– Using your arms to balance

– Make an improper turn

– Take incorrect number of steps

The One Leg Stand Test

Here, you will be asked to count aloud until you are told to stop all the while balancing one foot 6 inches off the ground. There are four indications of impairment, only two are needed for being arrested. While balancing if you:

– Sway

– Use your arms

– Hop

– or put your foot down

How your state of mind affects these tests


When performing these tests, you may mess up because you are nervous or scared. Many who get pulled over by a police officer feel that way, which can impair their ability to perform these tests. If you remain calm and listen to what the officer is asking of you, chances are the tests will run a lot smoother.

You should also keep in mind to inform the officer of any medical or mental conditions you may have. Some conditions will make you unable to perform these tasks, and letting the officer know beforehand will save you a lot of trouble. This includes if someone over the age of sixty five, or someone with an inner ear problem. If you have the wherewithal, let the officer know.

Generally, the calmer you are, the better these tests will go. If you are in a panic or are nervous, this may affect how your tests turn out. Remember as mentioned above, it does not take much for an officer to find what they need to arrest you. If your mental state is calm, then you will be able to refuse the tests, or perform them without a problem.

Of course, if you are impaired, then your mental state will not be as focused as it should be to drive, and you will likely not pass these tests. That is just one reason why you should not drink and drive.