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Why was I asked to perform field sobriety tests?

In order for a Tennessee law enforcement official to make a drunk driving arrest they must first have probable cause to suspect that the individual is intoxicated and operating their motor vehicle. The officer may first believe that they have observed the individual driving their automobile in a manner that suggests intoxication, but once they make a stop they may need more evidence of intoxication in order to make an arrest. Field sobriety tests can provide them with the proof they need to make a drunk driving arrest.

Field sobriety tests challenge a driver's balance, coordination and level of attention. They are usually performed in sets so that officers may have multiple pieces of evidence on which to establish probable cause and the bases of their arrests. The remainder of this post will briefly discuss some of the common tests officers use to determine intoxication in drivers, but readers are reminded that their experiences during DUI stops may be different.

A common field sobriety test is the one-leg stand. In this test a driver is asked to pick one foot up off of the ground and hold their balance. If they fail to stand still or topple over the officer may surmise that they are impaired by alcohol.

Another common field sobriety test is the walk and turn assessment. In this test a driver must walk toe to heel in a straight line and then return in the same manner in which they left. A driver's balance is tested by this assessment and if they do not stay on the same line or wobble then they may demonstrate signs of impairment.

These and other field sobriety tests give law enforcement officials evidence that may be used to support drunk driving arrests. These tests, though, are not perfect and can provide false evidence of intoxication. Drunk driving defense attorneys can counsel individuals who have been wrongly accused of drunk driving based on the outcomes of these assessments.

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Law Office of Sam Byrd
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Chattanooga, TN 37415

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NCDD National College for DUI Defense: Samuel A Byrd