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What sets standardized field sobriety tests apart?

When an officer suspects you have hit the road less than perfectly sober, they have a plethora of tools they can use to prove or disprove this hunch. While tools like breath analysis tests (colloquially called breathalyzers) often get the most press, that is likely not the test you will take at the start.

Instead, that falls on standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs). This is a form of field testing that stands out from the others for several reasons, which is what makes it the most common. But what is it, exactly?

What are SFSTs?

VeryWell Mind examines the place SFSTs have when it comes to determining if a driver acts under the influence. All field sobriety tests check how you physically react and behave in order to determine if alcohol has any influence over your actions. However, standardized tests exist in their own category for several reasons.

First, they have a unified rubric by which all officers must judge them. This helps cut down on the influence of officer bias on test results, as non-standardized tests rely solely on the observation and conclusions drawn by the testing officer.

Second, because of these rubrics, only three SFSTs exist. On the other hand, dozens of non-standardized tests exist, and many of these tests have different versions, which contributes to the aforementioned issue of officer bias.

How do courts view them?

Despite the steps SFSTs go through to eliminate officer bias, it can still come through. Courts have an awareness of this as well, which is why they do not put much weight on field sobriety tests of any sort as strong, central evidence. This is important to keep in mind when facing charges.


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