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Field Sobriety Tests

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Being stopped under the suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) in Rhode Island can be stressful and confusing, especially when the officer asks you to step out of the vehicle and perform a series of tasks known as field sobriety tests. These tests are intended to give the officer a better idea of whether or not their suspect has functional control over their motor skills and mental capacity, or if they are under the influence of some sort of mind-altering substance that negatively impacts their ability to operate a vehicle. The problem with these exams is that they are extremely subjective, and since there is no absolute way to measure performance, it is entirely up to the officer to determine whether or not you have passed or failed.

As such, it is important that you understand your rights when it comes to submitting to a field sobriety test, as well as how an experienced DUI attorney in Rhode Island will help you contest these results and hopefully have them suppressed as evidence during your trial. 


You are under no legal obligation to submit to a field sobriety test during a traffic stop in Rhode Island, but it is important to understand that your refusal will not simply end the traffic stop. You can still be arrested for DUI without taking a field sobriety test. While you are under an “implied consent” contract with the RI DMV when you accept your driver’s license, which subjects you to breathalyzer tests, there is no similar agreement with field sobriety tests.

Refusing the test may simply mean that the officer will next request that you submit to a breath test, though, which has actual consequences if you decide to refuse one.

Failing a Field Sobriety Test in Rhode Island

If you decide to submit to the battery of tasks that you will need to perform in the field sobriety test and the officer decides that you have failed, we will work very hard to reveal any mistakes or other problems with the test that may make it harder for the prosecution to prove their case against you. Passing or failing a field sobriety test relies on a variety of factors, and does not account for issues like nerves, distractions, physical disabilities, and more. 

Common Field Sobriety Tests

There are three common tests that an officer will usually administer during a traffic stop, each of which requires different types of physical and mental ability to perform. 

One-Leg Stand

The first is a one-leg stand, which requires the individual to stand on one leg for a certain period of time. This exam is a good way for an officer to determine if the person may be under the influence of anything that could impact their balance. 

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

The second exam is called a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, in which the officer has the individual follow an object, like a pen, with their eyes in a horizontal direction. The officer looks for when the eyes begin to jerk or twitch, which is an indication of intoxication. 

Walk and Turn Test

The final exam is a walk and turn exam, which is when the individual is told to walk in a straight line, heel to toe, turn, and then return to where they began. This test gives the officer another chance to see the person’s balance and ability to concentrate on a specific task.

Contact Us Today

If you have been charged with DUI in Rhode Island, the most important step to take is to hire an experienced DUI attorney who can start building a strong defense from day one. Our understanding of the Rhode Island courts and justice system will be a major asset for you as we fight for your rights and build a case that will increase your chances of a positive outcome.

Contact The Law Office of Brett V. Beaubien today to get started with our Providence appeals attorney.