Most people have heard of field sobriety tests before. However, fewer know about standardized field sobriety tests.
What is the difference between standardized and non-standard field sobriety tests? More importantly, do the differences matter?
Types of standardized field sobriety tests
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration discusses field sobriety tests. Two types exist: standardized and non-standardized. There are only three types of standardized field sobriety tests currently.
These three tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn and the one-legged stand. The first test checks for a waver in a person’s eye that often appears due to intoxication. The walk-and-turn and one-legged stand both check for balance.
All three tests check for a person’s ability to follow and understand instructions, as well as their coherent speech, thought and overall behavior.
What are the differences?
The difference is that standardized sobriety tests all have a set of guidelines that all officers must use. By comparison, non-standard tests do not have these guidelines. This means officers can interpret the test results however they like.
Because of that room for interpretation, it allows for a more significant possibility of an officer’s bias impacting and changing how they might rate a person’s intoxication. Due to that, many officers will avoid using these less strict versions of the test.
However, neither type of test typically gets admitted as serious evidence in a court case. This is because all field sobriety tests are objective to a degree, as they rely on imperfect and human methods to determine intoxication levels.