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Are Field Sobriety Tests Required In Michigan?

Police car lights at night in city street with selective focus.

When prosecutors move forward with DUI charges, they rely on evidence that was gathered by the police officer who made the traffic stop. During a stop, an officer may begin by asking the driver if they know why they were pulled over if they have been drinking, where they are coming from, and where they are going.

If the officer suspects impairment, the driver may be asked to take some field sobriety tests (FSTs).

Why am I being asked to take field sobriety tests?

The officer who pulled you over is looking for evidence that you have been drinking or using drugs. Field sobriety tests (SFSTs) are designed to assess several key indicators of potential impairment. These tests are not definitive proof of impairment, but they can provide evidence for officers to determine if further investigation, such as a breath test, is needed.

What tests will I be asked to take?

The three standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) used by law enforcement officers to assess potential impairment from alcohol or drugs are:

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

The officer asks the driver to follow a slowly moving object, like a pen or flashlight, horizontally across their field of vision without moving their head. The officer looks for signs of nystagmus, which is an involuntary jerking of the eye that can be exaggerated in individuals under the influence. They specifically look for six clues: lack of smooth pursuit, distinct nystagmus at maximum deviation (when the object is farthest from the center), and nystagmus upon returning gaze.


The driver takes nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turns 180 degrees using a series of small steps, and then takes nine more steps back along the line. The officer looks for signs of impairment, such as difficulty maintaining balance, stepping off the line, using arms for balance, taking unequal steps, or taking incorrect turns.

One-Leg Stand

The driver stands on one leg with the other foot raised six inches off the ground, arms at their sides, and eyes closed for 30 seconds. The officer looks for signs of impairment, such as swaying excessively, putting the foot down, hopping, using arms for balance, or counting incorrectly.

What are some of the problems with these tests?

Field sobriety tests (SFSTs) can be susceptible to several potential problems, raising questions about their fairness and accuracy. These problems include:

  • Subjectivity – The tests rely heavily on the officer's judgment and interpretation of the driver’s performance, which can lead to subjectivity and potential bias.
  • Training and consistency – While standardized training is provided, an officer may not always follow the proper procedures for administering the test, potentially impacting the results.
  • Medical conditions – Certain medical conditions can affect balance and coordination, leading to inaccurate interpretations of impairment.
  • Age and fitness level – Older adults or people with lower levels of physical fitness might struggle with the tests even if they are sober.
  • Anxiety and nerves - Being stopped by law enforcement can be stressful, potentially leading to anxiety and nervousness that mimic symptoms of impairment in the tests.

Can I refuse to take field sobriety tests?

Yes. In Michigan, there is no implied consent to take field sobriety tests. You have the right to refuse to take them without any penalty. However, there are other indicators of impairment that the officer may use in their assessment.

If you have been arrested and charged with DUI in Flint or anywhere in Genesee County, you need an experienced Michigan DUI attorney to fight for you. At Manley & Manley, we know what’s at stake. We know how to challenge the results of field sobriety tests and other evidence to help you get the best possible outcome.

Learn more about how we can help. Contact us to schedule a free case evaluation.

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