Maryland DWI Lawyer Explains Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Field Sobriety Tests In Maryland

Anyone who has been pulled over in Maryland on suspicion of drunk driving has likely experienced the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs). For those who are unfamiliar with these field sobriety tests, let’s explore what they are.

What are field sobriety tests?

The field sobriety test was first created back in the 1970s and has been in use since as a way for police officers to detect intoxication. For decades now the tests have been admissible as evidence in court to demonstrate impairment.

What are some examples of field sobriety tests?

The SFST has three parts: horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN), the walk-and-turn test (WAT) and the one-leg stand test (OLS). The first test, the HGN, is a test where officers look for involuntary movement in the driver’s eyes that naturally happens when someone looks from side to side. In intoxicated drivers this eye movement is much more pronounced and something that officers pay careful attention to. Officers look for twitching as well as signs that the driver’s eyes cannot smoothly follow a moving object.

Another popular field sobriety test is the walk-and-turn (WAT). The WAT is fairly obvious in that it requires drivers to walk and turn while following instructions from the police officer. Drivers who have been drinking tend to have a more difficult time performing the task. Officers performing this test are taught to look for balance trouble, halting steps and failure to listen to instructions as indications of intoxication.

The final component of the SFST is the most common one seen on television: the one-leg stand. In this test, drivers must stand for 30 seconds while balancing on one foot. Officers look for signs of swaying, hopping or falling as indications of impairment


Experts agree that no one test is definitive, but taken together the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that the three tests have a 90 percent chance of accurately assessing a driver’s level of impairment.

The SFSTs can be challenged and not all officers administer them properly.  Therefore, its important to consult with an experienced Maryland DUI and DWI attorney to determine the strength of the State’s case.

Need help with a Maryland traffic ticket or drunk driving offense? Call me at 301-563-9575 or 1-877-566-2408 for a free consultation. I’m an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer and I’d be happy to help. I practice law throughout the entire State of Maryland.