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What is a Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST)?

Region: Ontario Answer # 7705

If an officer has reason to suspect a driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs, they can demand that a driver perform Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) at a roadside traffic stop. SFSTs are a set of three tests conducted by specially trained Police officers to assess a driver’s motor skills, balance, coordination, and ability to safely operate a vehicle.

Can you refuse to take a SFST?

You do not have a legal right to refuse a SFST, and you do not have a legal right to speak with your lawyer prior to completing the test. If you do refuse to take a field sobriety test, you can be charged with failing to comply with an officer’s demand. This can also result in criminal charges that carry the same, or greater penalties as driving while impaired. If you have been charged with a criminal driving offence such as impaired driving or refusing to comply with demand, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.

What must you do in a SFST?

The three standardized tests are:

  1. Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test
  2. Walk and turn test
  3. One-leg stand test

Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test

In this test the officer slowly moves an object, such as a pen from one side to the other while asking the driver to follow the object with their eyes. The officer is looking for involuntary jerking of the eyes (called nystagmus) which can indicate if a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The walk and turn test

During the walk and turn test, the driver must take specific steps while walking heel-to-toe in a straight line. This test evaluates a driver’s balance and coordination, along with their ability to follow instructions. It may indicate a driver is impaired if not performed correctly.

The one-leg stand test

In the one-leg stand test, the driver stands on one leg while counting out loud for a specified amount of time. This test also assesses a driver’s balance and coordination and may indicate impairment if not performed correctly.

These tests are designed to be administered in a specific manner and are standardized to ensure accuracy and reliability. However, it is important to note that these tests are not foolproof and can be influenced by factors such as age, weight, physical disabilities, and environmental conditions.

What other tests can be done to assess impairment?

In addition to the SFST, an officer will make a judgment about your ability to drive safely based on a number of observations and other tests done at a roadside stop. This can include:

  • your appearance
  • your answers to questions
  • your physical movement
  • whether you or your car smell of alcohol or drugs
  • a breath-screening test for alcohol
  • an oral fluid (saliva) sample to test for drug impairment

What happens after the test?

SFST test results are recorded on a SFST worksheet and are included as part of the arresting officer’s evidence.

Depending on the results of the roadside tests, the officer may demand that the driver accompany them to the police station for further testing, such as an evidentiary breath sample to test for alcohol or submit to a drug recognition evaluation (DRE) by a specially trained evaluating officer.

Get help

To erase your criminal record, call toll-free 1-888-808-3628 or learn more at Pardon Partners. It’s easier than you think.

If you have been charged with a driving offence, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. Contact our preferred criminal defence expert, Calvin Barry Criminal Lawyers for a free consultation at 416-938-5858 .

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