What Is a Field Safety Test and Am I Obliged to Take It?

What is a Field Sobriety Test? Motorists suspected of driving under the influence are commonly asked by police officers to perform one (1) or more field sobriety tests. The police officer uses the field sobriety tests to assess whether a motorist is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The driver’s performance on these field tests oftentimes serves as the foundation for the probable cause to support the officer’s arrest for DUI. These same field evaluations and observations during field sobriety testing oftentimes become part of the State’s evidence in support of a conviction for DUI at trial. In fact, the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (“POST”) has adopted only three (3) field sobriety tests as the exclusive field tests taught by POST to Georgia law enforcement officers. These tests, sanctioned by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) are as follows: (1) Walk and Turn Test; (2) the One Leg Stand Test; and, (3) the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test. In addition, an Alc0-Sensor, a portable breath testing device, has traditionally been used by Georgia Police Officers in determining whether or not a motorist is under the influence of alcohol. Essentially, the Alco-Sensor serves as an initial alcohol screening test while the motorist is roadside. Unlike the numerical results yielded from the Intoxilyzer 5000, the numerical results from the Alco-Sensor are not admissible at trial as evidence of the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood and its numerical reading has been rejected at a probable cause hearing by the Georgia Court of Appeals. The majority view holds that the Alco-Sensor numerical results may not be used as evidence of the amount of alcohol or drug in a person’s blood however the officer may testify whether the test was “positive” for alcohol or whether the motorist “passed” or “failed” the Alco-Sensor Test. As explained below, the Field Sobriety Tests and the Alco-Sensor are “voluntary” and therefore the Georgia motorist cannot be required to submit to any one or more of these tests prior to being arrested for DUI. Many well-respected experts contend these tests are designed for failure. For example, the “one-leg stand” test generally requires the driver to raise one leg, keeping the raised foot approximately six inches (6”) off the ground, foot parallel to the ground, keeping both legs straight and arms at sides, keeping eyes on the elevated foot and counting out loud, “1001, 1002, 1003” and so on, until told to stop. This task should be completed for thirty (30) total seconds. Deficiency clues include if the driver sways while balancing, uses arms to balance, hops, or puts the raised food down prior to being told to do so.
Is the driver required to submit to field sobriety tests?

ANSWER: NO.

Unless and until the officer informs you that you are being arrested for DUI, field sobriety evaluations are voluntary. This includes the infamous hand-held alcohol Alco-Sensor, a screening test (a/k/a Portable Breath Test) which most officers carry and will ask you, “will you blow into the PBT”. DO NOT CONFUSE THE PBT WITH THE INTOXILYZER 5000 BREATH ALCOHOL TESTING INSTRUMENT WHICH IS NOT PORTABLE AND WHICH TYPICALLY IS NOT ADMINISTERED ROADSIDE.

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