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The Three Types of Field Sobriety Tests

The Three Types of Field Sobriety Tests

Being pulled over by a police officer can be scary, especially if you have had a beer or two. You never know what to expect when an officer pulls you over, and you may not even know why you were being pulled over. Still, your heart is pumping when the police officer walks up to your window. He asks you to step out of the car and take a field sobriety test, which is a test administered to help assess whether or not you are drunk. What should you do?

Donahue Law Firm in Bend, Oregon, is is a top rated DUI law firm that helps people who have been charged with DUI. Having a DUI or a DUII (driving under the influence of intoxicants) on your record is serious. Blindly pleading guilty when you could have a chance to reverse the charges is not the best solution to being arrested for DUI. When you partner with us, you’ll have the best chance for success in your DUI defense. Below, we’ll review the different types of field sobriety tests administered in the state of Oregon. Contact us when you need a DUI lawyer!


A field sobriety test, or FST, (also known as roadside tests or drunk tests) is meant to help a police officer determine if you should be arrested for DUI. They are meant to assess if you are drunk or not. However, many people are confused as to what field sobriety tests actually are due to their portrayal in the media and on TV.

Most drivers stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUI) in Oregon are asked to take an FST. There are three FSTs that are considered standard because they are the most common. Also, standard FSTs are meant to be administered in the same way every time. These tests are referred to as standard field sobriety tests, or SFSTs.



  1. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test
  2. The Walk and Turn test (WAT)
  3. The One Leg Stand test (OLS)

Donahue Law Firm, a DUI law firm in Bend, notes that there is yet another acronym that these tests are referred to: NHTSA SFSTs. This stands for the fact that these three field sobriety tests have been standardized by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). Let’s break these down and take a look at each one individually.



The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test is usually the first one administered after you have been stopped for suspicion of DUI in Oregon. This test is meant to test the involuntary jerking of your eyes that increases with the amount of alcohol you have drunk. It’s a side-to-side motion that police officers often test using a flashlight or a pen. Basically, you just have to follow the object as it’s moved from left to right or from right to left in a straight line. Police officers look for:

  • Whether you can follow the object.
  • Whether your eyes bounce when you look out of the corner of your eye.
  • Whether your eyes bounce before they are supposed to, which would be about halfway to the corner of your eye.

The HGN test is one of the most precise indicators of if you are drunk. However, this test often results in false positives due to administrative errors or the conditions at the time. Let’s face it, if it’s night time, which is when the majority to DUI stops and DUII arrests occur, it’s hard for your eyes to focus anyways given there is little light to see by. Furthermore, there are many highway distractions for the suspect not to pay attention to. For instance, if a big truck rolls by, you will probably involuntary glance over due to the noise and the vibrations from the highway. The lights from the patrol car can be distracting, or the police officer can be distracted as well. Furthermore, even just a little bit of alcohol can make your eyes jump. Overall, the HGN test is a great indicator of if you have drunk too much alcohol if it is administered under ideal conditions.


The Walk and Turn (WAT) test is another popular DUI test given when you are stopped for suspicion of drunk driving. Many people are familiar with this one as seen on TV. The WAT test requires you to walk on a real or imaginary line, turn, and walk back. Police officers are looking for:

  • Whether you fall over or step over the line.
  • Whether you follow instructions.
  • Whether you stop before completing the test.
  • Whether you walk with heel to toe if instructed to do so.
  • Whether you walk more or less than the instructed number of steps (usually nine).
  • Whether you raise your arm for balance.
  • Whether you turn properly.
  • Whether you count out loud if instructed to do so correctly.

Donahue Law Firm, a top-notch DUI law firm in Bend, notes that this test is difficult to do even under ideal conditions with no alcohol whatsoever and even if you are in perfect health. If you have any sort of physical limitations, such as mobility issues, an injury to your back, legs, or feet, or if you have balance problems, will most likely fail this test. Overall, the WAT test is not the best indicator of alcohol consumption.


The last DUI field sobriety test often given is the One Leg Stand (OLS) test. This is the simplest test, but surprisingly difficult for most people to do. After all, unless you do yoga, how often do you stand on one leg for 30 seconds? Well, that is exactly what this SFST test asks you to do. The OLS test is designed to test balance because when you are drunk, you have a difficult time standing up, let alone balancing, which is one of the first things to go when you are inebriated. Police officers look for:

  • Whether you put your foot down before 30 seconds are up.
  • Whether you need your arms to balance (most people do this instinctively).
  • Whether you sway during the 30 seconds.
  • Whether you hop to prevent yourself from falling.

Here at Donahue Law Firm, a great DUI law firm in Bend, we recognize the imperfections in these field sobriety tests and are often able to have the results of these tests thrown out because of one condition or circumstance. We urge you to not be scared by the DUI criminal court process. Instead, give us a call for your DUI arrest. We can help.



If you are asked to perform a field sobriety test on suspicion of DUI in the state of Oregon, you are expected to comply. While you can refuse, the penalties for refusing to take the tests are often harsher than failing a test. Furthermore, a refusal makes you look guilty even though it is your right. Plus, it’s much easier for a great DUI lawyer, such as Donahue Law Firm, to have a poorly administered FST thrown out than to explain to a judge and a potential jury why you refused to take one in the first place.

DUI attorneys in Oregon and elsewhere are conflicted on whether you should submit to FSTs because each case, person, and circumstance is unique. Field sobriety tests are considered a search, and you are legally able to refuse to consent to a search under Oregon law. Some DUI attorneys say to refuse the FST, while others say to take it. If you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI, most likely you will be arrested anyway, no matter the results of the test.

That being said, you do want the best chance to have your case thrown out or reduced. In essence, it’s a personal call. However, you are allowed to consult with a DUI attorney before taking as FST. in this case, your DUI attorney can gather the facts and then advise you properly. Refusing an FST is much less incriminating than refusing a breathalyzer test, which can result in stiff fines.



Donahue Law Firm in Bend is passionate about helping those accused of DUI. DUI law is notoriously complex, and you need someone who knows all of the DUI law to help. The DUI attorneys at the Donahue Law Firm in Bend will work with you and through the legal system to get you the most favorable outcome possible. Call for your free DUI consultation today!

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