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What happens during a field sobriety test?

Field sobriety testing is a common occurrence in Illinois and other states all over the nation. Such testing is beholden to very specific rules and regulations, and law enforcement must comply with all relevant statutes to ensure testing is conducted in the appropriate manner. To this end, it’s imperative that you understand just how field sobriety testing is to be conducted to ensure your rights are preserved.

According to the Illinois State Police, field sobriety testing begins with the law enforcement official observing a vehicle in motion and making a determination on whether the driver is inebriated. This initial observation can be based on a number of factors. For instance, expired registration may call an officer’s attention to a specific vehicle, as can a motorist’s erratic or unusual driving (such as weaving, driving too slowly, etc.) From there, the law enforcement official must decide whether his or her suspicion is reasonable enough to constitute pulling over the vehicle.

If so, the next step entails personal contact between the driver and law enforcement official. The officer will most likely question the driver at this point using techniques aimed at establishing the possibility of inebriation. The officer may ask questions intended on distracting or confusing the driver, or request the driver completes two tasks at once to test for mental acuity.

The actual testing itself can include many different formats. Walk-and-turn testing is aimed estimating a driver’s ability to balance and maneuver in a reasonable manner. Proper balance can also be determined by requesting the driver stand on one leg for a period of time, which may prove difficult for inebriated individuals. No matter the type of testing used, law enforcement officials must adhere to standardized procedures to ensure they remain compliant with the law. 

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