DWI Defense: The Field Sobriety Test

How Can I Challenge a Failed Field Sobriety Test?

Driving while intoxicated is a serious offense in the state of New York. Being arrested for a DWI can be a life-changing event, potentially causing you to endure prison time, loss of your license, tremendous fines, and other penalties. Often, DWI charges will rest in part on the findings of one or more field sobriety tests. Anyone charged with a DWI should consult with a New York criminal defense attorney for assistance with challenging the field sobriety test results.


Field sobriety tests are administered by police officers in most states, including New York after a traffic stop is made and the officer suspects the suspect is impaired. Field sobriety tests are aimed at exploring the suspect’s balance, ability to focus, physical ability, and more to assess intoxication. There are three different Standardized Field Sobriety Tests that are endorsed by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). These include:

  1. The Walk and Turn Test: This test is administered by asking the suspect to take several steps heel to toe in a straight line. The suspect will then turn on one foot and walk back. Someone who is intoxicated by struggle to stay on the line, but this test can also wrongly implicate those with some medical conditions that make balancing a challenge.
  2. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: Officers will ask the suspect to visually follow a pen or other object. They will look for the exaggerated jerking of the eye that occurs when a suspect is intoxicated. Those with some eye conditions can experience a similar jerking motion, which may lead to a challenge of the test.
  3. The One Leg Stand: For this test, a police officer will ask a suspect to stand on one foot for several seconds. If the suspect sways, hops or uses his or her arms to balance, these could all be signs of intoxication. Like the walk and turn test, however, some individuals with physical disabilities or balance problems could falsely be accused of intoxication based on this test.

If you have been arrested for a DWI, you should consult with a DWI defense attorney for help. Your attorney will closely review video and documentation as to the field sobriety tests to determine whether you may have a viable defense against the charges you face.