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What do field sobriety tests prove?

If you know someone who has been arrested for and charged with a drunk driving offense in Georgia, you might know that they were asked to take field sobriety tests before they were arrested. You may not, however, fully understand what these tests are or how they may be used by prosecutors and law enforcement.

According to, the battery of roadside tests administered during an investigation for possible driving under the influence is used to provide sufficient evidence with which officers may place a driver under arrest. These tests are not capable of proving intoxication, let alone of proving a blood alcohol content, but of only suggesting that a person might be impaired.

Another important factor to note is that none of the three tests are foolproof. The eye test has the highest accuracy rating and even that is only 77 percent. The walk-and-turn test has an accuracy rate of 68 percent and the one-leg stand test has an accuracy rating of 65 percent. Persons who have problems with their back, hips, legs, knees or feet may not be able to perform these tests to a passing level regardless of whether or not they have consumed alcohol. Some neurological conditions may also interfere with a person’s ability to pass the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.

This information is not intended to provide legal advice but is instead meant to give residents in Georgia an overview of what field sobriety tests are used for, what they can or cannot actually demonstrate and how inaccurate they may be.