Are Tennessee Field Sobriety Tests Reliable?

Perhaps you were out to dinner entertaining clients, watching the big game with friends, or even celebrating your spouse’s birthday. When you see the lights flashing behind you as you drive home, you feel your pulse increase and wonder what will happen next. The law enforcement officer who stops you could very well be stopping you to determine if you have been drinking before getting behind the wheel. They have a few different tools they can use to do this, including a field sobriety test. You may not know how to handle this situation, but no matter the outcome, a Murfreesboro criminal lawyer can help.

Do You Have to Submit to a Field Sobriety Test?

While refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test will come with penalties, refusing to take a field sobriety test is within your rights and will not result in a penalty. Keep in mind that the law enforcement officer is not obligated to tell you that you have a right to refuse this request. A field sobriety test is a method of determining if you are too impaired to drive. Even if you pass with flying colors, it will not prevent you from facing a DUI charge. The choice is yours if you want to take this test or not. Either way, you should still seek representation from a seasoned Murfreesboro criminal attorney if you are charged with a DUI.

What is a Field Sobriety Test?

Tennessee drivers who are pulled over under the suspicion of a DUI will usually be asked to exit their car and take part in a few different field sobriety tests. Since the tests are standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the same test is administered no matter where you are stopped. Every office is expected to administer this test in the same exact way. The three following tests make up a field sobriety test:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): The officer shines a light in your eye or alternatively asks you to follow a pen or their finger as they move it from side to side. Since eye movement is involuntary, this part of the test is considered the most accurate. 
  • Walk and Turn (WAT): The officer asks you to walk a straight line, connecting heel to toe for nine steps. You will then turn and walk back in the same fashion. This test checks for several signs of intoxication, including balance and the ability to “multitask.”
  • One Leg Stand (OLS): The officer requests that you stand while holding one foot in front of you about six inches off the ground. You will be asked to hold this position for approximately 30 seconds. This test also checks your balance. 

Get Help from a Skilled Murfreesboro Criminal Lawyer Today

Being charged with a DUI can be one of the most challenging and humiliating times of your life. At Kidwell, South, Beasley & Haley, we are dedicated to assisting our clients through the difficult times in their life. There is a lot at risk for those convicted of a DUI in Tennessee. Let our attorneys reduce that risk and give you the best chance possible at keeping your freedoms.

Speak to a Murfreesboro criminal lawyer and receive a case review by calling 615-893-1331 today or contact us online. We will review your case and advise you of your legal rights and options according to the circumstances of your case.


By Richard