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The different types of field sobriety tests in North Carolina

On Behalf of The Law Firm of Brent D. Ratchford |

When a police officer pulls you over on suspicion of driving under the influence in North Carolina, they will likely ask you to take a field sobriety test to determine whether or not you are impaired. Here are the common types of tests they will ask you to perform.

1. Walk and turn test

This test is used to assess balance and coordination. The police officer will ask you to take nine steps heel to toe in a straight line. Then, you will turn around and do the same in the opposite direction. While doing this, the police officer will look at signs of unsteadiness, such as using arms to balance, taking an incorrect number of steps, losing balance while turning, or inability to listen or adhere to instructions.

2. Horizontal gaze nystagmus

Horizontal gaze nystagmus is a vision exercise that requires you to follow an object (usually a penlight) with your eyes. The officer will be looking for involuntary jerking movements in your eyes, which is more exaggerated when impaired. Additionally, if you cannot follow the object smoothly, the police can arrest you for DWI.

3. Standing on one leg

A police officer can also ask you to stand on one leg, with the other foot about six inches above the ground, and count for 30 seconds or more. If you sway while balancing, hop, use your arms to balance or put your foot down, the officer can take you into custody.

Can you refuse sobriety tests in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, you can refuse to perform a field sobriety test without any consequences. But, if the arresting officer asks you to take a more precise breath test at the police station, refusal could result in automatic one-year license revocation under North Carolina law.

You should remember that your health, environment, and clothing can compromise the field sobriety test results. Therefore, if you believe that they might affect you, taking the more precise breath test at the station may be the best option.