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How do standardized and non-standardized field sobriety tests differ?

On Behalf of | Sep 18, 2020 | OWI/DUI/DWI |

Indiana has laws determining what an officer can and cannot do if they suspect you of driving under the influence. These laws also outline how officers can use the tools that test your blood alcohol content (BAC) level.

As such, many people suspected of DUI like you face field sobriety tests before anything else. These tests serve a similar purpose, but function in slightly different ways.

Why are standardized tests used more? looks at both standardized and non-standardized field sobriety tests. Both see use, but you are much more likely to run into a standardized test than a non-standardized one. This is due to an attempt at eliminating officer bias. With non-standardized tests, the testing officer makes all of the decisions. Non-standardized tests do not have a rubric to judge potential signs of intoxication with. Thus, the officer determines whether the signs are there or not.

Standardized tests have a universal rubric that officers across the country must use. This helps eliminate bias. There are also a limited number of standardized tests, cutting down on the confusion that multiple different test types can have. The three types of standardized tests are:

  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus
  • The walk-and-turn
  • The one-legged stand

What do these tests check?

All three tests check your ability to follow instructions and your memory. The latter two check your mobility and balance. The horizontal gaze nystagmus focuses on the nystagmus, a waver in your eyes. This waver occurs naturally, and gets more prominent and noticeable with alcohol in your system.

These tests are not fool-proof, though. In many cases, failing a field sobriety test just means the officer will ask you to take a blood or breath test next.

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