Anne Bishop, P. O. Box 313, Gainesville, GA 30503 (770) 783-5296

A. Bishop Law, LLC

Georgia DUI Field Sobriety Tests

John Breakfield is an experienced Hall County, Georgia DUI Defense Attorney and is dedicated to protecting your rights. If you have been charged with a Georgia DUI we can help. Please call Breakfield & Associates, Attorneys 770-783-5296.

Field sobriety tests aid a police officer in deciding whether there is probable cause to arrest a driver for DUI. This pre-arrest screening tests a subject's mental and physical impairment and information processing, mainly their attention span, ability to listen to directions, balance, and coordination. Across the nation, officers are instructed to administer these tests in the same, standard manner. However, sometimes police officers can deviate from the routine. Our Georgia DUI Attorney, Anne Bishop, understands how the tests are supposed to be performed and can help to determine if your DUI Arrest was based on flawed field sobriety testing.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are three scientifically validated psychophysical (mental and physical) DUI field sobriety tests: (1) Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN); (2) Walk-and-Turn; and (3) One-Leg Stand.  When these three tests are administered in a standard manner, they can be highly accurate and reliable tests for determining when a driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above 0.10.  Additionally, the officer may perform a preliminary breath test (PBT) machine to confirm the level of the driver’s impairment.  All of these clues combine to assist the officer to make the arrest/ no arrest decision.

John Breakfield is an experienced Hall County, Georgia DUI Defense Attorney and is dedicated to protecting your rights. If you have been charged with a Georgia DUI we can help. Please call Breakfield & Associates, Attorneys 770-783-5296.

Sobriety tests help law enforcement determine if a person is able to perform simple tasks simultaneously, using 3 types of standardized tests established by the NHTSA. They include walking in a straight line and turning around, standing on one leg while counting, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus.

However, police officers sometimes make mistakes or do not follow all the rules and procedures.  When they stray from the guidelines for how these tests are supposed to be administered, that can lead to a faulty DUI Arrest.  It is best to consult with a Georgia DUI Attorney to help you determine whether your DUI Arrest involved any field sobriety tests that were not given properly by the arresting officer.

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN):

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus tests for an involuntary jerking of the eyes as the eyes gaze towards the side.  An impaired driver will not even realize that the jerking is happening. (Imagine a windshield wiper without enough rain.)  The driver cannot feel it, but the officer can see it and it is a clue that the driver is impaired.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this test is the most reliable of the DUI field sobriety tests.

The HGN is performed by the officer holding up an object (stimulus) to the suspect’s eye level and instructing the suspect to follow the motion of the object with their eyes only.  The object can be a pen, penlight, pencil eraser, or even the officer’s fingertip, so long as the object contrasts with the background and is clearly visible to the suspect.  As the officer moves the object, he looks into the suspect’s eyes and watches for various clues that indicate impairment.  The higher a person’s BAC, the more likely the clues will appear.

If you were instructed to perform the HGN test, and the object was not contrasting with the background, making it difficult to see and follow, then this is a potential error that may weaken the prosecution’s DUI Case against you.  Contact a Georgia DUI Attorney immediately if you believe that the officer made any potential mistakes when administering this field sobriety test.

The Divided Attention Field Sobriety Tests:

The Divided Attention Tests examine a suspect’s physical and mental capabilities and test a driver’s ability to perform multiple tasks at once.  Alcohol and other substances reduce a person’s ability to divide attention between multiple tasks, which is why driving becomes so difficult for an impaired individual.  Of course, the test must be reasonable and simple for the average person to perform when sober; otherwise, it would not be a fair test.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, some of the tested capabilities are as follows:

  1. Information processing;
  2. Short-term memory;
  3. Judgment and decision making;
  4. Balance;
  5. Steady, sure reactions;
  6. Clear vision;
  7. Small muscle control;
  8. Coordination of limbs.

The two most accurate and effective tests proven to indicate driver impairment are the Walk-and-Turn and the One-Leg Stand.

The Walk-and-Turn:

The Walk-and-Turn is one of the Divided Attention Tests that has been validated through research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The first stage of this test involves the officer giving the instructions to the subject while the subject holds a particular stance without changing their position.  This task requires the subject to focus on maintaining their balance while listening to the instructions.

The second stage of the Walk-and-Turn requires the subject to take nine heel-to-toe steps, turn in a specific manner, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back, all while counting the steps out loud and watching their feet.  This task requires the subject to again focus on their balance, to count out loud, and to recall their memory of the instructions during the first stage of the test.

There are several different clues that the officer watches for while the subject completes the Walk-and-Turn.  These clues include:

  1. Not being able to keep balance while listening to the initial instructions
  2. Starting the test before the instructions are finished
  3. Stopping while walking
  4. While walking, not touching heel-to-toe (leaving a space between feet)
  5. Stepping off the line (not walking in straight line)
  6. Using arms to balance and raising arms too high (arms should remain at your sides)
  7. Improper turn (removing the pivot foot while turning, turning in the wrong direction, or not turning as instructed)
  8. Incorrect number of steps

The One-Leg Stand:

The One-Leg Stand is the other Divided Attention Test.  Like the Walk-and-Turn, this test also has two stages.

The first stage involves the officer giving instructions for the subject on how to correctly do the One-Leg Stand.  The subject is required to maintain a stance while processing the information the officer is providing.

The second stage requires the subject to raise one leg (either one) and keeping the foot raised and parallel to the ground.  While looking at the elevated foot, the subject is supposed to count out loud, which is meant to divide the subject’s attention between balancing and counting.  This test, just like the Walk-and-Turn, is performed in the same standardized way every time.  The officer carefully observes while the subject completes this test and looks for a few specific clues that show that the subject may be impaired.  These clues include:

  1. Swaying while balancing on one leg
  2. Using arms to balance and raising arms too high (arms should remain at your sides)
  3. Hopping to keep balance
  4. Putting the foot down (not able to maintain the one-leg stand position)


Bottom line:

If you were instructed to perform these field sobriety tests, and you believe that there was a significant error by the police officer, then contact a Georgia DUI Attorney immediately.  There may be a significant error that may weaken the prosecution’s DUI Case against you.


At A. Bishop Law, our Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney welcomes questions on Criminal Defense laws, Traffic Laws and Georgia DUI laws. Please Call or Email us with any questions.

About the attorney:  Anne Bishop is a Georgia Lawyer with A. Bishop Law in Gainesville, Georgia and handles various DUI / DWIMarijuana Arrests and other Georgia Criminal Defense matters.  The law office of A. Bishop Law can assist clients throughout Georgia including: Hall County (Gainesville, OakwoodFlowery Branch), Jackson County  (Jefferson, Braselton) White County (Helen, Cleveland), Lumpkin County (Dahlonega), Dawson County (Dawsonville), Habersham County (Demorest, Cornelia), and all of Northeast Georgia.

This article and/or video should not be considered nor relied upon as legal advice since it is only intended for general overview and informational purposes. Please consult with an attorney on your specific situation in order to determine an appropriate legal course of action.

Anne Bishop
A. Bishop Law, LLC
Attorney at Law
539 Green Street NW
Phone: (770) 783-5296

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