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Types of Field Sobriety Tests

When you’re pulled over by a police officer for drinking and driving, the officer can’t automatically tell if you are sober or under the influence. In order to be certain, they may have you perform a field sobriety test and/or breath into a breathalyzer if they suspect that you’ve been drinking. Field sobriety tests may seem silly as you’re performing them, but they were designed to make the suspect perform actions or listen to instructions that could help determine if they are impaired. Depending on the officer who arrests you, you may be subject to a few different types of field sobriety tests, and in today’s post, we will discuss what some of those tests are and how they help an officer determine if you’re impaired.

If you’ve been recently arrested for a DUI or DWI, you need a highly educated attorney who can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case. At Roselle & Breitigam, our DUI attorneys have years of experience helping people just like you defend their case. We can provide you with expert legal advice, as well as walk you through the process. If you would like to learn more, contact Roselle & Breitigam in Fort Collins to schedule an appointment.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests


When you think of field sobriety tests, you most likely think of the walk and turn test. This test requires the individual to take nine steps, touching heel-to-toe in a straight line before turning on one foot to do the same thing in the opposite direction. During this test, the officer will look for a number of different indicators, such as the individual:

  • Starting before the instructions are complete
  • Staying balanced while the instructions are given
  • Stopping to regain balance
  • Using arms to balance
  • Taking the wrong number of steps

There are a few more indicators that the officer can observe while the individual performs this test, but if they exhibit two or more of the indicators, then the officer has good reason to believe the individual has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher.


The nystagmus test is another common test that you’ve probably seen demonstrated at one point or another. During this test, the officer will hold up an object close to the individual’s face — typically a pen — and they will ask the individual to watch the object as they move it. Because this test is designed to monitor eye movement, the officer will closely watch the individual’s eyes as they watch the object. Someone who is sober should have no problem following the object with their eyes, but someone who is under the influence may have jerky eye movements.


The Finger to nose test is a test that helps the officer measure the driver’s balance. To complete this test, the driver must stand with their feet together, their eyes closed, and their arms outstretched. The officer will then instruct the individual to touch a finger to their nose while holding this stance. In order to pass the test, the individual must be able to touch their nose while keeping balance. However, if the driver misses their nose, loses balance, or has muscle tremors, the officer may consider the test a fail.


The standing on one leg test is typically performed while the driver performs another task. The officer may ask the driver to stand on one leg while counting by thousands, for example. As the individual completes this test, the officer will look for signs of intoxication such as losing balance, losing count, swaying, and not following directions properly. If the driver exhibits any of these signs, the officer will most likely say the test failed and that the driver is intoxicated.


Similar to some of the other tests, the Romberg test measures balance. However, it also measures neurological function. The way this test works is that individuals need vision, vestibular function, and proprioception in order to maintain proper balance, and this test eliminates one of those three functions. To complete the test, the officer will ask the driver to stand upright with their feet together, close their eyes, and tilt their head back. Once in this position, the officer will ask the driver to attempt to estimate when 30 seconds have passed. As the driver is completing the test, the officer will monitor any swaying, body or eyelid tremors, the individual’s ability to follow instructions, and the accuracy of their estimate of 30 seconds. Should the individual sway, have tremors, fail to follow instructions, or fail to estimate close to 30 seconds, the officer may assume they are under the influence.


When you’re arrested for a DUI or DWI, there is a lot you need to do if you want to clear your name. Luckily, at Roselle & Breitigam, our team of expert DUI attorneys has years of experience helping people just like you in Fort Collins and the surrounding cities. We are here to help you get the best possible outcome for your case, so if you have any questions or you would like to schedule a meeting with a DUI attorney, reach out to our office today!