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  • A DUI conviction can affect you and your family in many ways, including license suspension, fines, higher insurance rates, mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, and jail time.


What are standardized Field Sobriety Tests?


Field Sobriety Tests (FSEs) are so-called divided-attention tests used by an officer who has stopped a driver for DUI to assess the driver's physical and/or mental impairment.  The standardized Field Sobriety Tests include Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (the eye test), the Walk and Turn Test, and the One Leg Stand test.  The following information on the FSTs comes from the research and training materials of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).


(The Eye Test)

This test refers to the involuntary jerking of the eye as it moves from side to side.  When this occurs, the person is unaware of the jerking, and cannot control it.  When testifying in court, police officers are trained to say that this involuntary jerking becomes more noticeable as an individual's blood alcohol content (BAC) increases.  However, nystagmus is a natural, normal phenomenon that occurs in individuals who have had nothing to drink and an experienced DUI attorney can keep this test out, or at the very least limit this tests usefulness as evidence against you. 

When the HGN test is administered, the officer is required to hold a stimulus (usually a pen) 12-15 inches away and ask you to follow the stimulus with you eyes, without moving your head.  The officer will always start with the left eye, and will be looking for three specific clues:

 CLUE #1 - Lack of Smooth Pursuit: The eyes can be observe to jerk or bounce as they follow a smoothly moving stimulus, such as a pencil or penlight.  The eyes of an unimpaired person will follow smoothly, i.e., a marble rolling across a smooth pane of glass, or windshield wipers moving across a wet windshield. 

CLUE #2 - Distinct and Sustained Nystagmus at Maximum Deviation: Distinct and sustained Nystagmus will be evident when the eye is held at maximum deviation for a minimum of four seconds.  People exhibit slight jerking of the eye at maximum deviation, even when unimpaired, but this will not be evident or sustained for more than a few seconds.  When impaired by alcohol, the jerking will be larger, more pronounced, sustained for more than four seconds, and easily observable.

CLUE #3  Angle of Onset of Nystagmus: The point at which the eye is first seen jerking.  If the jerking begins prior to 45 degrees it is evident that the person has a BAC above .08, with a higher level indicated the sooner the Nystagmus is observable, according to research by the NHTSA.

The maximum number of clues in each eye is three, for a total of six clues.  The original research has shown that if four or more clues are present, the person is intoxicated.  Most police officers fail to take into consideration any possible medical conditions as a contributing factor to Nystagmus, or they fail to consider that strobe lights, traffic lights or other lights in the area can contribute to Nystagmus.   


This divided-attention test consists of the instruction phase and the walking phase.  During the instruction phase, drivers must stand with the right foot directly in front of the left foot with the heel and toes touching, keeping their arms at their side, while listening to the instructions.  One's attention is divided between maintaining balance and listening to and remembering the instructions.  The instruction phase of the test takes at least 45 seconds to complete.  If you use your arms to balance yourself in this awkward position, it will be viewed as a sign of intoxication.

During the walking phase, the person takes nine heel-to-toe steps, turns in a prescribed manner, and takes nine heel-to-toe steps back, while counting the steps out loud.  The steps are taken down a straight line, and if an actual line is not present, the person is instructed to walk down an imaginary line.  The walking phase divides a person's attention between keeping their balance, counting out loud, taking the proper number of steps, tuning in the prescribed manner, while keeping their arms at their side.

  •  The officer is looking for eight specific clues: 

  • An inability to balance during instructions;
  • Starting the test too soon; 

  • Stops while walking
  • Doesn't touch heel-to-toe; 

  • Stepping off the real or imaginary line;
  • Using the arms for balance;
  • Losing balance on turn, or turning incorrectly;

  •  Taking the wrong number of steps.


This divided-attention test consists of the instruction phase and the balance and counting phase.  During the instruction phase, drivers must stand with their feet together, keeping their arms at their sides while listening to the instructions.  The driver's attention is divided between maintaining balance and listening to and remembering the instructions. 

  • During the balance and counting phase, the driver must raise one leg approximately six inches off the ground, with arms down and toes pointed.  The driver must count 1001, 1002, 1003, etc. while looking at the toes of the raised foot until told to stop.  Drivers who put their foot down are instructed to raise the foot again and continue counting where they left off.  

  • During the test, the officer is watching for four specific clues: 

  • Swaying while balancing;
  • Using the arms for balance;
  • Hopping;

Putting the foot down.

The Seattle DUI lawyers at Lovik & Juhl, PLLC are dedicated to helping people facing DUI charges throughout King County, including all King County District Courts and Municipal Courts in Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, Kent, and all surrounding communities.

For most people charged with a DUI, it is their first contact with the legal system. Once you contact our Seattle DUI lawyers, we will take over your case and begin taking steps to defend you from day one.

Call An Experienced Seattle DUI Lawyer Now At 206-706-2831 for a Free No Hassle Consultation About Your Seattle DUI Case.