An Overview Of Standardized Field Sobriety Testing In Illinois

Chicago’s Top DUI Attorney Talks About the Field Sobriety Test

Interviewer: What is the purpose of the field sobriety test?

Fred Dry: Generally the purpose of the field sobriety test is to determine the effects of alcohol or other drugs on a person. It is used for the purpose of seeing what their coordination is, what their comprehension is and their ability to follow instructions. It’s not just a physical test but it primarily does test physical capacities.

There is a Scientific Basis to Field Sobriety Tests Endorsed by the NHTSA

Interviewer: Is there a scientific basis to these tests?

Fred Dry: Scientific studies were done for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These were studies that were done in a scientific manner. That is to say that they actually had people do these various and sundry tasks in a controlled setting to see how they would perform and see if there was a correlation between performance and consumption.

The Point at Which Standardized Field Sobriety Tests are Administered

Interviewer: At what point are the field sobriety tests going to be administered?

Fred Dry: When people are observed driving, the police will follow them if they observed some unusual driving behavior and ultimately stop them if their behavior is continuing or it repeats itself. Then they will approach the car and engage the driver in conversation. They are making observations of the demeanor of the person; whether their clothing is appropriate, whether they’re sloppy or disheveled  and the sound and tone of their voice. Do they detect the smell of alcohol? Checking to see if the driver’s speech is slurred, whether or not responses to the conversation that the officer is presenting are appropriate. If there is a lot of delay between a question and answer, that might tend to indicate that there is some impairment. After all of that, if the officer is still suspicious, you will be asked to get out of your car and take the Field Sobriety Tests.

The Police Officers are Looking for Indicators of Impairment like Slurred Speech or Lack of Balance

They’re primarily looking for things like: Does the driver or the inside of the car smell of alcohol? “Is there some impairment in their speech? Is their speech slurred? Are the answers appropriate to the conversation? Are they given in a reasonable appropriate manner? The field sobriety tests are then administered when the police officer gets the person out of the car. Because the police will observe how the driver gets out of the car, whether or not they used the car for support, whether or not they are able to stand up appropriately, and how they walk. the police officer will usually have the driver walk to the back of the car.   It would usually be at that point where there might be some additional conversations. Then the officer would like to do a field sobriety test. Often times they’re done on the roadway. Sometimes they are done on the sidewalk where there’s less danger.  The sidewalks tend to be a better place to do these things. Field sobriety tests will be the last thing that the police do before they make a decision about whether or not to make an arrest, unless you are offered the Portable Breath Test or PBT. Usually in this circumstance it seems that the decision to arrest has already been made and the PBT is offered simply to confirm the officer’s conclusion.

If a Police Officer Asks a Motorist to Perform Field Sobriety Tests then they Already Suspect Impairment

Interviewer: Will there always be a standardized field sobriety test that the blue uniform will perform when you are pulled over?

Fred Dry: It’s been my experience that if the police officer is asking you to do a field sobriety test, it’s because he’s already detected some sign of possible impairment; most likely it is going to be the smell of alcohol. I believe if the police officer is having you do a field sobriety test, it’s usually a situation where he is using them to confirm the suspicion that the driver is  intoxicated.

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