The Different Types of Field Sobriety Tests

The Ways a Police Officer Can Establish Probable Cause in a DUI/DWI Case

The Different Types of Field Sobriety TestsIn Maryland, as in other states, when a police officer pulls you over for speeding, running a red light or other traffic infractions, he or she may look for evidence that you are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. One of the common ways that a law enforcement officer will look to establish probable cause that you have been drinking before you got behind the wheel is with what is known as a “field sobriety test.” There are three field sobriety tests commonly used by police officers in Maryland:

  • The one-leg stand test: You will be asked to stand on one leg and count to a certain number (usually between 15 and 30), while the officer looks for evidence of instability caused by alcohol or drugs. Of course, many people cannot pass this test because of physical conditioning (or lack thereof).
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test: The officer will hold an object in front of your face and move it from side to side (typically a light or a pencil). The officer will watch your eyes to see if they jerk back and forth, supposedly an indication of intoxication.
  • The walk and turn test: You’ll be asked to walk “heel-to-toe,” often both forward and backward. You may also be asked to turn left, right or completely around. The officer is looking for a failure to follow directions or some clumsiness in your gait.

Proven Maryland DUI/DWI Defense Lawyer

For more than three decades, attorney Jonathan Scott Smith has protected the constitutional rights of criminal defendants across Baltimore and through out the state of Maryland, including people charged with DUI or DWI. Super Lawyers has named him among the top 100 lawyers in Maryland and The American Lawyer Magazine has also listed him as a Top-Rated Lawyer.

Jonathan has maintained an AV-rating (the highest possible) under Martindale-Hubbell’s Peer Review Rating System for more than 34 years. He has also received Martindale-Hubbell’s coveted Client Distinction Award, an honor earned by less than 4% of all attorneys in Maryland. He enjoys a 10.0 (Superb rating) as a trial lawyer from AVVO and has also earned AVVO’s Client’s Choice Award, with an average client review of 5 stars.

A well-respected trial lawyer, Jonathan has a thorough understanding of Maryland criminal law and procedure, and has considerable experience successfully handling a wide range of criminal cases. He knows how to effectively gather and preserve evidence and will take all necessary measures to ensure that law enforcement officers did not violate your constitutional rights.

Aggressive Anne Arundel County Drunk Driving Defense Attorney

At the law offices of Jonathan Scott Smith, we fight for the rights of criminal defendants throughout Baltimore County and the surrounding communities. Contact us online or call 410-740-0101 to arrange a meeting. We handle cases throughout Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Frederick County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County in Maryland.

Field Sobriety Tests in Maryland

The Different Tests | Are They Accurate?

Field Sobriety Tests in MarylandIt’s common practice for law enforcement officers in Maryland to request that a motorist take a “field sobriety test” if there’s suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI). Those tests can take a number of different forms:

  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus—With this test, the officer holds an object in front of your eyes and moves it back and forth, looking for a “jerking” movement in your eyes, which is considered an indication of alcohol intoxication.
  • The one-leg stand—This assessment involves standing on one foot for up to 30 seconds. Officers look for problems with balance, as well as difficulty counting.
  • The walk-and-turn test—This is the “heel-to-toe” test, where you must put one foot in front of the other, walk in a specific direction, and then change directions.

The Reliability of Field Sobriety Tests

In testing conducted by the Southern California Research Institute in the 1970s, the accuracy of field sobriety tests was mixed. The report found that almost one of every four horizontal gaze nystagmus tests was inaccurate and that the other two tests were accurate about 2/3 of the time.

Proven Maryland Drunk Driving Defense Lawyer

Attorney Jonathan Scott Smith, a Maryland SuperLawyer, has more than three decades of experience fighting for the rights of men and women facing criminal charges throughout Maryland. AV-rated by his colleagues under Martindale-Hubbell’s Peer Review Rating System, attorney Scott Smith has also received the Client’s Choice Award, with the highest rating possible (5 stars). He’s been given a 10.0 (Superb) rating as a trial attorney and named a Top-Rated Lawyer by The American Lawyer magazine.

Attorney Smith has extensive experience handling all matters related to drunk driving. He knows from experience that police officers often violate constitutional rights, stopping drivers without probable cause or failing to give Miranda warnings before arrest. He’ll carefully review police reports and question witnesses to confirm that your constitutional rights were not violated.

Proven Drunk Driving Attorney in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area

To schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your options after a DWI/DUI arrest, contact attorney Jonathan Scott Smith online or call 410-740-0101 to set up an appointment. Attorney Smith handles DWI and DUI cases throughout the Baltimore and the surrounding area, including Howard County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Frederick County, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County.


  • Jonathan Scott Smith 10490 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 200 ,Columbia, MD 21044-4960

  • Call for consultation 410-740-0101