Field Sobriety Tests for Drunk Driving in Illinois

If you are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving in Illinois, the officer may request that you take certain physical tests to determine whether there is alcohol in your system. These “field sobriety tests” are commonly conducted by police at the scene, so they can decide if a breathalyzer or other investigation is necessary. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has established three standardized tests that law enforcement across the US may use in the field. However, the test results are not a guarantee that you will be convicted for DUI. There are options for fighting a DUI charge, so it is critical to discuss your case with an experienced Illinois drunk driving defense attorney.

Walk and Turn Test

This test is used to assess your physical capabilities, as the officer will request you to take nine steps, pivot, and then return to the start. It is also used to assess your cognitive ability to follow directions. Police use strategies to make the walk and turn test challenging, such as directing heel-to-toe steps. The officer will be watching for you to count the proper number of steps, and whether you stumble or need your arms to assist with balance.

One Leg Stand

Another multi-tasking test, the one leg stand examines your ability to maintain a position without falling over or using other parts of your body to maintain balance. The officer will explain the test as follows:

  • You must lift one foot off the ground and hold it at around 6-10 inches;
  • You are required to keep your arms at their sides;
  • You will be told to count out loud to a designated number; and,
  • Then, you can lower your foot.

Police will be observing to see whether you need your arms for balance, whether your foot touches the ground, and how well you complete the count.

Horizontal Gaze

Also known as the nystagmus test, this exam assesses your level of impairment by checking your eyes. Police will ask you to focus on an object, such as a pen or cell phone. The officer will then move the object side to side, seeing how well your eyes follow the movement. Jerking your eyes as you sweep your gaze is termed “nystagmus,” and it could indicate that you have ingested alcohol.

Refusing a Field Sobriety Test

In Illinois, you are not required by law to submit to field sobriety tests. There are no consequences for refusing the field sobriety tests or the portable breath test. Illinois case law and statutory law give you the right to refuse these tests. Still, refusal may create the presumption that you are driving drunk, which can lead to your arrest.

Reach Out to a DUI Defense Attorney for Legal Help with Drunk Driving Charges

These field sobriety tests may be authorized by NHTSA standards, but it is still possible to successfully contest the results and fight a DUI in Illinois. The key to success in court is hiring a knowledgeable defense attorney that will protect your interests. For more information on field sobriety tests, please call 847-577-8700 or go online to schedule a consultation with our attorneys at Glasgow & Olsson.

(image courtesy of Jacob Ufkes)

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